Emotions alter muscle proprioceptive coding of movements in humans

Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 16;7(1):8465. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-08721-4.


Emotions can evoke strong reactions that have profound influences, from gross changes in our internal environment to small fluctuations in facial muscles, and reveal our feelings overtly. Muscles contain proprioceptive afferents, informing us about our movements and regulating motor activities. Their firing reflects changes in muscle length, yet their sensitivity can be modified by the fusimotor system, as found in animals. In humans, the sensitivity of muscle afferents is modulated by cognitive processes, such as attention; however, it is unknown if emotional processes can modulate muscle feedback. Presently, we explored whether muscle afferent sensitivity adapts to the emotional situation. We recorded from single muscle afferents in the leg, using microneurography, and moved the ankle joint of participants, while they listened to evocative classical music to induce sad, neutral, or happy emotions, or sat passively (no music). We further monitored their physiological responses using skin conductance, heart rate, and electromyography measures. We found that muscle afferent firing was modified by the emotional context, especially for sad emotions, where the muscle spindle dynamic response increased. We suggest that this allows us to prime movements, where the emotional state prepares the body for consequent behaviour-appropriate reactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ankle Joint
  • Electromyography
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Feedback
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology
  • Muscle Spindles / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Music / psychology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Proprioception / physiology*