Absence of stretch reflex gain enhancement in voluntarily activated spastic muscle

Exp Neurol. 1987 Nov;98(2):317-35. doi: 10.1016/0014-4886(87)90245-7.


Static and dynamic stiffnesses of voluntarily activated elbow muscles were compared in spastic and contralateral arms of 15 subjects with spastic hemiparesis. Stiffnesses were estimated from the positional deflections induced by applying load perturbations to each forearm. In 11/15 subjects (73%), stiffness were comparable on the two sides. In the remaining 4/15 subjects (27%), stiffness were consistently greater on the spastic side, however, EMG recordings from these spastic muscles were of much smaller amplitude than those of the contralateral muscles, indicating that this increase was probably caused by changes in the mechanical properties of elbow muscles, rather than by stretch reflex enhancement. We conclude that for voluntarily activated muscles of spastic hemiparetic subjects, reflex stiffness (and presumably stretch reflex gain), of spastic and contralateral limbs is not significantly different. These findings impose important constraints upon theories attempting to explain spastic hypertonia, and they also provide guidelines for clinical quantification of spasticity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Elbow / physiopathology
  • Electromyography
  • Hemiplegia / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Spasticity / physiopathology*
  • Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Reflex, Stretch*
  • Volition