Alteration of proprioceptive messages induced by tendon vibration in man: a microneurographic study

Exp Brain Res. 1989;76(1):213-22. doi: 10.1007/BF00253639.


The activities of single proprioceptive fibres were recorded from the lateral peroneal nerve using transcutaneously implanted tungsten microelectrodes. Unitary discharges originating from muscle spindle primary and secondary endings and Golgi tendon organs were identified by means of various physiological tests. The sensitivity of proprioceptors to mechanical vibrations with a constant low amplitude (0.2-0.5 mm) applied at various frequencies to the tendon of the receptor-bearing muscle was studied. Muscle spindle primary endings (Ia fibres) were found to be the most sensitive to this mechanical stimulus. In some cases their discharge could be driven in a one-to-one manner up to 180 Hz. Most of them also fired harmonically with the vibration up to 80 Hz and then discharged in a subharmonic manner (1/2-1/3) with increasing vibration frequencies. Muscle spindle secondary endings (II fibres) and Golgi tendon organs (Ib fibres) were found to be either insensitive or only slightly sensitive to tendon vibration in relaxed muscles. The effects of tendon vibration on muscle spindle sensory endings response to muscle lengthening and shortening induced by imposed constant velocity or sinusoidal movements of the ankle joint were studied. Modulation of the proprioceptive discharge frequency coding the various joint movement parameters was either completely or partly masked by the receptor response to vibration, depending on the vibration frequency. Moreover, vibrations combined with sinusoidal joint movements elicited quantitatively erroneous proprioceptive messages concerning the movement parameters (amplitude, velocity). The sensitivity of the Golgi tendon organs to vibration increased greatly when the receptor-bearing muscle was tonically contracted. These data confirm that vibration is able to preferentially activate the Ia afferent channel, even when the vibration amplitude is low. They define the frequency sensitivity of the muscle spindle primary and secondary endings and the Golgi tendon organs. They also show that the physiological messages triggered by ongoing motor activities undergo a series of changes during the exposure of muscles to vibration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Muscles / innervation*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Peroneal Nerve / physiology*
  • Proprioception*
  • Tendons / innervation*
  • Vibration*