, Volume 82, Issue 1, pp 211-213

Amplitude modulation of the human quadriceps tendon jerk reflex during gait

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Amplitude modulation of the quadriceps tendon jerk reflex was investigated during the step cycle in normal human subjects. Reflex amplitude was compared with that obtained during a control stance condition, with “equivalent” levels of EMG activity and limb position. During gait there was a progressive decrease in the reflex amplitude early in the stance phase, i.e. during yielding of the knee, and it remained reduced throughout the step cycle. This pattern of changes in reflex amplitude correlated with neither the quadriceps EMG activity nor with the knee joint movements. The behavior of the tendon reflex was similar to that described for the modulation of the quadriceps H-reflex during the early stages of the stance phase of gait. In the latter study it was argued that changes in presynaptic inhibition of quadriceps la terminals could account for the amplitude modulation. We conclude that there is no dramatic change in the gamma drive to quadriceps muscle spindles: tendon reflexes are modulated during the step cycle in much the same way as H-reflexes, in spite of the peripheral and central differences between them. Similar behavior has been described for the soleus H-reflex and Achilles tendon reflex during gait although the modulation of these reflexes followed a different pattern than that seen in the quadriceps.