Proprioceptors and the Regulation of Movement

  • Peter B. C. Matthews


By the beginning of the present century, histological work, particularly that of Sherrington and of Ruffini, had established that skeletal muscle is as fully supplied with afferent nerve fibers as it is with the motor nerve fibers which induce overt contraction and thus all movement. It was widely accepted that this afferent input played a crucial role in the regulation of movement both by its reflex actions and by feeding information to that “head ganglion of the proprioceptive system,” the cerebellum, but precise information and understanding eluded all concerned; indeed, the debate was still in progress as to whether the familiar tendon jerk was really a reflex or just the direct response of muscle to a mechanical stimulus. Half a century later, the importance of the muscle proprioceptors for the processes of neural arithmetic was further highlighted by the demonstration that nearly a third of the motor fibers to a muscle were devoted exclusively to the intrafusal muscle fibers of the muscle spindles and thus concerned with the proprioceptive regulation of movement rather than with directly producing movement itself (Kuffler, Hunt and Quilliam, 1951; Leksell, 1945). Today, we have gathered a great deal more information about the particular workings of the proprioceptive system, but in many essential matters any deep understanding still eludes us, and as the present article will outline, debate continues on many topics that our successors may judge to be as elementary as that of the origin of the tendon jerk.


Muscle Spindle Muscle Afferents Golgi Tendon Organ Intrafusal Fiber Tendon Jerk 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter B. C. Matthews
    • 1
  1. 1.University Laboratory of PhysiologyOxfordEngland

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