Human stretch reflex pathways reexamined

S. Utku Yavuz, Natalie Mrachacz-Kersting, Oguz Sebik, M. Berna Ünver, Dario Farina, Kemal S. Türker

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17 Citations (Scopus)
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Reflex responses of tibialis anterior motor units to stretch stimuli were investigated in human subjects. Three types of stretch stimuli were applied (tap-like, ramp-and-hold, and half-sine stretch). Stimulus-induced responses in single motor units were analyzed using the classical technique, which involved building average surface electromyogram (SEMG) and peristimulus time histograms (PSTH) from the discharge times of motor units and peristimulus frequencygrams (PSF) from the instantaneous discharge rates of single motor units. With the use of SEMG and PSTH, the tap-like stretch stimulus induced five separate reflex responses, on average. With the same single motor unit data, the PSF technique indicated that the tap stimulus induced only three reflex responses. Similar to the finding using the tap-like stretch stimuli, ramp-and-hold stimuli induced several peaks and troughs in the SEMG and PSTH. The PSF analyses displayed genuine increases in discharge rates underlying the peaks but not underlying the troughs. Half-sine stretch stimuli induced a long-lasting excitation followed by a long-lasting silent period in SEMG and PSTH. The increase in the discharge rate, however, lasted for the entire duration of the stimulus and continued during the silent period. The results are discussed in the light of the fact that the discharge rate of a motoneuron has a strong positive linear association with the effective synaptic current it receives and hence represents changes in the membrane potential more directly and accurately than the other indirect measures. This study suggests that the neuronal pathway of the human stretch reflex does not include inhibitory pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)602-612
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • EMG
  • Human
  • Muscle spindle reflex
  • Peristimulus frequencygram
  • Peristimulus time histogram


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