Neural connections between the cervical and lumbosacral spinal cord may assist in arm and leg coordination during locomotion. Currently the extent to which arm activity can modulate reflex excitability of leg muscles is not fully understood. We showed recently that rhythmic arm movement significantly suppresses soleus H-reflex amplitude probably via modification of presynaptic inhibition of the IA afferent pathway. Further, during walking reflexes evoked in leg muscles by stimulation of a cutaneous nerve at the wrist (superficial radial nerve; SR) are phase and task dependent. However, during walking both the arms and legs are rhythmically active thus it is difficult to identify the locus of such modulation. Here we examined the influence of SR nerve stimulation on transmission through the soleus H-reflex pathway in the leg during static contractions and during rhythmic arm movements. Nerve stimulation was delivered with the right shoulder in flexion or extension. H-reflexes were evoked alone (unconditioned) or with cutaneous conditioning via stimulation of the SR nerve (also delivered alone without H-reflex in separate trials). SR nerve stimulation significantly facilitated H-reflex amplitude during static contractions with the arm extended and countered the suppression of reflex amplitude induced by arm cycling. The results demonstrate that cutaneous feedback from the hand on to the soleus H-reflex pathway in the legs is not suppressed during rhythmic arm movement. This contrasts with the observation that rhythmic arm movement suppresses facilitation of soleus H-reflex when cutaneous nerves innervating the leg are stimulated. In conjunction with other data taken during walking, this suggests that the modulation of transmission through pathways from the SR nerve to the lumbosacral spinal cord is partly determined by rhythmic activity of both the arms and legs.
Cutaneous reflexes Arm cycling Central pattern generator CPG Reflex modulation