Disentangling acceleration-, velocity-, and duration-dependency of the short- and medium-latency stretch reflexes in the ankle plantarflexors

Ronald C. van ’t Veld*, Edwin H. F. van Asseldonk, Herman van der Kooij, Alfred C. Schouten*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Motorized assessment of the stretch reflex is instrumental to gain understanding of the stretch reflex, its physiological origin and to differentiate effects of neurological disorders, like spasticity. Both short-latency (M1) and medium-latency (M2) stretch reflexes have been reported to depend on the velocity and acceleration of an applied ramp-and-hold perturbation. In the upper limb, M2 has also been reported to depend on stretch duration. However, wrong conclusions might have been drawn in previous studies as the interdependence of perturbation parameters (amplitude, duration, velocity, and acceleration) possibly created uncontrolled, confounding effects. We disentangled the duration-, velocity-, and acceleration-dependence and their interactions of the M1 and M2 stretch reflex in the ankle plantarflexors. To disentangle the parameter interdependence, 49 unique ramp-and-hold joint perturbations elicited reflexes in 10 healthy volunteers during a torque control task. Linear mixed model analysis showed that M1 depended on acceleration, not velocity or duration, whereas M2 depended on acceleration, velocity, and duration. Simulations of the muscle spindle Ia afferents coupled to a motoneuron pool corroborated these experimental findings. In addition, this simulation model did show a nonlinear M1 velocity- and duration-dependence for perturbation parameters outside the experimental scope. In conclusion, motorized assessment of the stretch reflex or spasticity using ramp-and-hold perturbations should be systematically executed and reported. Our systematic motorized and simulation assessments showed that M1 and M2 depend on acceleration, velocity, and duration of the applied perturbation. The simulation model suggested that these dependencies emerge from: muscle-tendon unit and muscle cross-bridge dynamics, Ia sensitivity to force and yank, and motoneuron synchronization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1015-1029
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


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