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Proprioceptive reaction times and long-latency reflexes in humans

Abstract

The stretch of upper limb muscles results in two electromyographic (EMG) peaks, M1 and M2. The amplitude of M2 peak can generally be modified by giving prior instruction to the subject on how to react to the applied perturbation. The unresolved question is whether the amplitude modulation results from change in the gain of the reflex pathway contributing to M2, or by superposition of reaction time (RT) activity. The following study attempted to resolve this question by examining the overlap between proprioceptive RT and M2 activities. Subject’s right wrist flexors were stretched, and he/she was instructed either (1) not to intervene (passive task) or (2) to react as fast as possible by simultaneously flexing both wrists (active or compensate task). Under passive and active conditions, M1 and M2 were observed from EMG of right wrist flexors, and during the active condition, RT activities were additionally observed from both sides. The onset and offset of M2 (M1onset, M2offset) were measured from the passive averages, while the RT was measured from the averaged EMG response of the left wrist flexors. For between-subject correlations, the data were divided into two sets: (1) subjects with RT shorter than M2offset (fast group) and (2) subjects with RT more than 10 ms longer than their M2offset (slow group). Modulation during M2 period was large for the fast group, and it was almost zero for the slow group. These results indicate that the superimposition of RT activity mainly contributes to the instruction-dependent modulation of M2 peak.

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Acknowledgments

Authors are grateful to Professor PBC Matthews, Chantelle D Murnaghan and Professor SH Scott for their helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by a grant from Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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Correspondence to P. Bawa.

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Manning, C.D., Tolhurst, S.A. & Bawa, P. Proprioceptive reaction times and long-latency reflexes in humans. Exp Brain Res 221, 155–166 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-012-3157-x

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Keywords

  • Reaction time
  • Transcortical reflex
  • Reflex gain
  • Gain modulation
  • Prior instruction