Responses of tendon organs to unfused contractions of single motor units

J Neurophysiol. 1985 Jan;53(1):32-42. doi: 10.1152/jn.1985.53.1.32.


The discharges of individual tendon organs of peroneus longus and tertius muscles were examined in anesthetized cats during stimulation of single motor units at frequencies that elicit unfused contraction (5-50/s). At these frequencies nearly all the fast-contracting motor units activating a tendon organ elicited responses whose discharge rates reproduced the stimulation frequency ("1:1 driving"), whereas slow-contracting motor units elicited responses in which the discharge rate was higher than the stimulation frequency. When a motor unit stimulated at 40/s developed a gradually potentiating tension, the tendon organ discharge could remain locked on stimulation frequency over an appreciable range of the increasing tension as if the receptor responded to the tension oscillations rather than to the mean level of tension. The only visible effect of the gradual increase in mean tension on the tendon organ response was a gradual decrease of the delay between each stimulus and the corresponding impulse. Driving of tendon organ discharge at the stimulation frequency occurred not only when relatively large oscillations were superimposed on a low level of static tension but also when the static component of the tension was quantitatively preponderant. These observations suggest that during unfused contractions the dynamic component of the stimulus (i.e., oscillation of tension) exerts a prevailing influence on the discharge pattern of tendon organs. Computed simulations of tendon organ responses confirmed that a relatively strong dynamic sensitivity could account for the observed behavior of the receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cats
  • Electrophysiology
  • Isometric Contraction
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Tendons / innervation*