Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 169, Issue 2, pp 255–260

Interaction of involuntary post-contraction activity with locomotor movements

  • Y. P. Ivanenko
  • W. G. Wright
  • V. S. Gurfinkel
  • F. Horak
  • P. Cordo
Research Note


Involuntary post-contraction muscle activity may occur after performing a strong long-lasting (about 30 s) isometric muscle contraction (Kohnstamm phenomenon). Here we examined how this putative excitatory state may interact with a locomotor movement. The subjects stood upright and were asked to oppose a rotational force applied to the pelvis for about 30 s either in the clockwise or in the counterclockwise direction. After that, they were asked to perform various motor tasks with the eyes closed. During quiet standing, we observed an involuntary post-contraction torsion of the trunk. During walking, the post-contraction facilitatory effect of body torsion was not overridden by the voluntary activity, but instead significantly influenced the forward locomotor program such that subjects walked along a curved trajectory in the direction of the preceding torsion. In contrast, we did not observe any rotational component when subjects were asked to step in place. We conclude that the post-contraction rotational aftereffect does not transfer to just any motor task but apparently manifests itself in those movements that incorporate the activated axial muscle synergy or rotational component. We argue that central excitability changes following the voluntary effort may contribute to the phenomenon and highlight the role of tonic influences in fine-tuning of the spinal cord.


  1. Bernstein N (1967) The co-ordination and regulation of movements. Pergamon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. Bizzi E, D’Avella A, Saltiel P, Tresch M (2002) Modular organization of spinal motor systems. Neuroscientist 8(5):437–442PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Courtine G, Schieppati M (2003) Human walking along a curved path. II. Gait features and EMG patterns. Eur J Neurosci 18(1):191–205CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Craske B, Craske JD (1986) Oscillator mechanisms in the human motor system: investigating their properties using the aftercontraction effect. J Mot Behav 18(2):117–145PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Dostal WF, Soderberg GL, Andrews JG (1986) Actions of hip muscles. Phys Ther 66(3):351–361PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Duclos C, Roll R, Kavounoudias A, Roll JP (2004) Long-lasting body leanings following neck muscle isometric contractions. Exp Brain Res 158(1):58–66CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Evarts EV, Shinoda Y, Wise SP (1984) Neurophysiological approaches to higher brain functions. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Gilhodes JC, Gurfinkel VS, Roll JP (1992) Role of Ia muscle spindle afferents in post-contraction and post-vibration motor effect genesis. Neurosci Lett 135(2):247–251CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Gregory JE, Morgan DL, Proske U (1988) After-effects in the responses of cat muscle spindles and errors of limbs position sense in man. J Neurophysiol 59:1220–1230PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Grillner S (1981) Control of locomotion in bipeds, tetrapods, and fish. In: Handbook of physiology. The nervous system. Motor control, sect 1, vol 2, part 1. Am Physiol Soc, MD, Bethesda, pp 1179–1236Google Scholar
  11. Gurfinkel VS, Levik YS, Lebedev MA (1989) Immediate and remote postactivation effects in the human motor system. Neurofiziologia 21:247–253Google Scholar
  12. Gurfinkel VS, Ivanenko YP, Levik YS (1990) Unusual mechanical behavior of skeletal muscles during a slow change in its length. In: Cherniy GG, Regirer SA (eds) Contemporary problems of biomechanics. Mir Publishers, CRC Press, Boston, pp 236–256Google Scholar
  13. Gurfinkel VS, Ivanenko YP, Levik YS, Kazennikov OV, Selionov VA (1999) The neural control of posture and locomotion: a lock with two keys. In: Gantchev GN, Mori S, Massion J (eds) Motor control today and tomorrow. Academic Publishing House, Sofia, pp 113–121Google Scholar
  14. Hagbarth KE, Nordin M (1998) Postural after-contractions in man attributed to muscle spindle thixotropy. J Physiol 506:875–883PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Hultborn H (2001) State-dependent modulation of sensory feedback. J Physiol 533:5–13CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Ivanenko YP, Cappellini G, Domimici N, Poppele RE, Lacquaniti F (2005) Coordination of locomotion with voluntary movements in humans. J Neurosci 25(31):7238–7253CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Jankowska E, Edgley S (1993) Interactions between pathways controlling posture and gait at the level of spinal interneurones in the cat. Prog Brain Res 97:161–171PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kohnstamm O (1915) Demonstration einer katatonieartigen erscheinung beim gesunden (katatonusversuch). Neurol Zentral Bl 34S:290–291Google Scholar
  19. Mathis J, Gurfinkel VS, Struppler A (1996) Facilitation of motor evoked potentials by postcontraction response (Kohnstamm phenomenon). Electroenceph Clin Neurophysiol 101:289–297CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Mori S, Kawahara K, Sakamoto T, Aoki M, Tomiyama T (1982) Setting and resetting of level of postural muscle tone in decerebrate cat by stimulation of brain stem. J Neurophysiol 48:737–748PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Poppele R, Bosco G (2003) Sophisticated spinal contributions to motor control. Trends Neurosci 26(5):269–276CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Prochazka A (1989) Sensorimotor gain control: a basic strategy of motor systems? Progr Neurobiol 3:281–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Proske U, Morgan DL, Gregory JE (1993) Thixotropy in skeletal muscle and in muscle spindles: a review. Prog Neurobiol 41(6):705–721PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Ribot-Ciscar E, Tardy-Gervet MF, Vedel JP, Roll JP (1991) Post-contraction changes in human muscle spindle resting discharge and stretch sensitivity. Exp Brain Res 86(3):673–678CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Saunders JB, Inman VT, Eberhart HD (1953) The major determinants in normal and pathological gait. J Bone Joint Surg Am 35-A(3):543–558PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Shik ML (1983) Action of the brainstem locomotor region on spinal stepping generators via propriospinal pathways. In: Kao CC, Bunge RP, Reier RJ (eds) Spinal cord reconstruction. Raven Press, New York, pp 421–434Google Scholar
  27. Stuart DG (2002) Reflections on spinal reflexes. Adv Exp Med Biol 508:249–257PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Y. P. Ivanenko
    • 1
  • W. G. Wright
    • 2
  • V. S. Gurfinkel
    • 2
  • F. Horak
    • 2
  • P. Cordo
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Neuromotor PhysiologyIRCCS Fondazione Santa LuciaRomeItaly
  2. 2.Neurological Sciences InstituteOregon Health & Science UniversityBeavertonUSA

Personalised recommendations