Medium-latency stretch reflexes of foot and leg muscles analysed by cooling the lower limb in standing humans

J Physiol. 1997 Sep 15;503 ( Pt 3)(Pt 3):691-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7793.1997.691bg.x.


1. In standing subjects, an ankle-dorsiflexing perturbation of the supporting surface evokes a short-latency response (SLR) and a medium-latency response (MLR) to stretch in both soleus (Sol) and flexor digitorum brevis (FDB) muscles. The SLR is the counterpart of the monosynaptic reflex, whilst the MLR might be either mediated by Ia fibres, the delay being due to a long-loop central circuit, or by fibres of slower conduction velocity. Since small afferents are slowed more than large ones by low temperature, a greater latency increment for the MLR than the SLR induced by cooling of the limb would point to a peripheral origin of the MLR. 2. In nine subjects, one limb was cooled by circulating water in a tube wrapped around it for about 120 min. Perturbations were delivered to the same limb prior to and during cooling, and after rewarming. EMG was recorded by surface electrodes from the Sol and FDB muscles. 3. The mean increase in latency of MLRs was significantly greater than that of SLRs in both muscles. On average, the Sol SLR increased from 42.4 to 47.0 ms and the Sol MLR from 72.0 to 82.3 ms. The FDB SLR increased from 58.1 to 66.5 ms and the FDB MLR from 94.9 to 110.5 ms. The mean difference (MLR minus SLR) increased from 29.6 to 35.2 ms for Sol, and from 36.8 to 43.9 ms for FDB at the end of cooling. After 30 min of rewarming, the responses of both muscles recovered towards control values. 4. The greater latency increment of the MLRs than of the SLRs favours the hypothesis of a slower conduction velocity of the responsible afferent fibres. The most likely candidate fibres are the spindle group II afferents.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cold Temperature
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Foot / physiology
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Reflex, Stretch / physiology*
  • Skin Temperature