Long-latency reflexes for inter-effector coordination reflect a continuous state feedback controller

J Neurophysiol. 2018 Nov 1;120(5):2466-2483. doi: 10.1152/jn.00205.2018. Epub 2018 Aug 22.


Successful performance in many everyday tasks requires compensating unexpected mechanical disturbance to our limbs and body. The long-latency reflex plays an important role in this process because it is the fastest response to integrate sensory information across several effectors, like when linking the elbow and shoulder or the arm and body. Despite the dozens of studies on inter-effector long-latency reflexes, there has not been a comprehensive treatment of how these reveal the basic control organization that sets constraints on any candidate model of neural feedback control such as optimal feedback control. We considered three contrasting ways that controllers can be organized: multiple independent controllers vs. a multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) controller, a continuous feedback controller vs. an intermittent feedback controller, and a direct MIMO controller vs. a state feedback controller. Following a primer on control theory and review of the relevant evidence, we conclude that continuous state feedback control best describes the organization of inter-effector coordination by the long-latency reflex.

Keywords: feedback; heteronymous reflex; optimal feedback control.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Feedback, Physiological*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Reflex*