, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 465-478

Pattern of projections of group I afferents from forearm muscles to motoneurones supplying biceps and triceps muscles in man

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Summary

(1) Two independent methods were used, in man, to assess the modifications of the excitability of biceps and triceps brachii motoneurone pools following the stimulation of group I afferents coming from muscles acting at the wrist: (a) the modifications of the excitability of a motoneuronal population were studied using a reflex technique, (b) the modifications of the excitability of an isolated motor unit were estimated using a post-stimulus time histogram (p.s.t.h.) method. (2) The activation of group I afferents contained in the median nerve, originating from wrist flexors and pronators, resulted in a strong, short-latency facilitation of the biceps brachii motoneurones. A similar effect was also evoked by stimulation of group I afferents in the radial nerve, distally to the branch supplying the brachio-radialis muscle. The latency of both median and radial-induced facilitations is compatible with a monosynaptic linkage. (3) The stimulation of group I afferents in the median or the radial nerves produced inhibition of triceps motoneurones, with a latency compatible with a disynaptic linkage. (4) The prolonged vibration of the tendon of the flexor carpi radialis (FCR) or of the extensor carpi radialis (ECR) raised the threshold for both the facilitation of biceps and the inhibition of triceps motoneurones. The same pattern of excitatory and inhibitory convergence could also be obtained when the electrical conditioning stimulus to the median or radial nerves was replaced by a tap applied to the tendons of FCR or ECR respectively. Both results suggest that the conditioning fibres were Ia fibres. (5) The pattern of distribution of Ia afferents from muscles acting at the wrist onto motoneurones of muscles acting at the elbow has been compared to that described in the cat and monkey. A comparison has also been made between Ia connections of muscles acting at different joints in the upper and lower limb in man. The differences are discussed in relation to the manipulating capacity of the hand.