Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 151, Issue 1, pp 1–8 | Cite as

Proprioceptive reflexes in patients with reflex sympathetic dystrophy

  • A. C. SchoutenEmail author
  • W. J. T. Van de Beek
  • J. J. Van Hilten
  • F. C. T. Van der Helm
Research Article


Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is a syndrome that frequently follows an injury and is characterized by sensory, autonomic and motor features of the affected extremities. One of the more common motor features of RSD is tonic dystonia, which is caused by impairment of inhibitory interneuronal spinal circuits. In this study the circuits that modulate the gain of proprioceptive reflexes of the shoulder musculature are quantitatively assessed in 19 RSD patients, 9 of whom presented with dystonia. The proprioceptive reflexes are quantified by applying two types of force disturbances: (1) disturbances with a fixed low frequency and a variable bandwidth and (2) disturbances with a small bandwidth around a prescribed centre frequency. Compared to controls, patients have lower reflex gains for velocity feedback in response to the disturbances around a prescribed centre frequency. Additionally, patients with dystonia lack the ability to generate negative reflex gains for position feedback, for these same disturbances. Proprioceptive reflexes to the disturbances with a fixed low frequency and variable bandwidth present no difference between patients and controls. Although dystonia in the RSD patients was limited to the distal musculature, the results suggest involvement of interneuronal circuits that mediate postsynaptic inhibition of the motoneurons of the proximal musculature.


Reflex sympathetic dystrophy Dystonia Propriocepsis Reflexes Shoulder 



This research was supported financially by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. C. Schouten
    • 1
    Email author
  • W. J. T. Van de Beek
    • 2
  • J. J. Van Hilten
    • 2
  • F. C. T. Van der Helm
    • 1
  1. 1.Delft University of Technology, Department of Mechanical EngineeringMan Machine Systems and ControlLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyUniversity Medical CentreLeidenThe Netherlands

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