Twitch contraction for identification of human muscle afferents

Acta Physiol Scand. 1987 Sep;131(1):129-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-1716.1987.tb08214.x.


A classical test to differentiate between Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles is the twitch contraction elicited by electrical stimulation. The possibility of producing maximal twitches in the finger extensor muscles using surface stimulation over the muscle belly was investigated as well as the feasibility of the test in microneurography experiments. Electrical stimuli were applied either over the muscle in the forearm or the radial nerve in the upper arm, while the resulting torque output at single metacarpophalangeal joints was measured. The relationship between current intensity and maximal contraction force was determined and stimulus response plots were constructed over a large range of current intensities. Stimulation of the radial nerve always yielded plots with a steep and monotonous rising limb up to a plateau. It was concluded that the plateau represented maximal twitch contractions. With transcutaneous stimulation over the muscle belly, the stimulus response plots were usually more complex. However, this could be explained by force transmission through the intertendinous connections on the dorsum of the hand and by antagonist activation. It was concluded that maximal twitch contractions can readily be elicited in the human extensor digitorum muscle with nonpainful transcutaneous electrical stimulations. Moreover, maximal twitches are compatible with single unit recording from muscle afferents in microneurography experiments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Hand
  • Humans
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscle Spindles / physiology
  • Muscles / innervation*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Pronation
  • Radial Nerve / physiology
  • Supination
  • Tendons / physiology
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation