Proprioceptors in Muscle, Joint and Skin

  • John C. Rothwell


Proprioceptive organs signal to the CNS information about the relative positions of the body parts. Apart from pressure receptors in the soles of the feet, they do not supply any information as to the orientation of the body with respect to gravity; they only signal the position of one part of the body with respect to another. The receptors involved lie in the muscles (spindles and Golgi tendon organs), the joints and the skin. In this chapter, only the structure and characteristics of the afferent discharge will be summarised for each type of receptor. The possible roles of these receptors in the control of movement will be discussed in subsequent chapters. Despite its age, Matthews’s (1972) book on muscle receptors is still one of the best complete reviews on these topics


Motor Unit Soleus Muscle Muscle Spindle Joint Position Sense Pacinian Corpuscle 
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References and Further Reading

Review Articles and Books

  1. Barnes, W.J.P. and Gladden, M.H. (eds.) (1985) Feedback and Motor Control in Invertebrates and Vertebrates, Croom Helm, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. Boyd, I.A. (1980) The Isolated Mammalian Muscle Spindle’, TINS 3, pp. 258–65Google Scholar
  3. Boyd, I.A. (ed.) (1985) The Muscle Spindle, Macmillan LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Brodal, A. (1981) Neurological Anatomy in Relation to Clinical Medicine,Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  5. Hulliger, M. (1984) `The Mammalian Muscle Spindle and Its Central Control’, Rev. Physiol. Biochem, Pharmacol, 101, pp. 1–110Google Scholar
  6. Matthews, P.B.C. (1972) Mammalian Muscle Receptors and Their Central Actions, Arnold, LondonGoogle Scholar
  7. Matthews, P.B.C. (1977) `Muscle Afferents and Kinaesthesia’, Br. Med. Bull, 33, pp. 137–42Google Scholar
  8. Matthews, P.B.C. (1981) `Review Lecture: Evolving Views on the Internal Operation and Functional Role of the Muscle Spindle’, J. Physiol, 320, pp. 1–30Google Scholar
  9. McCloskey, D.I. (1981) `Corollary Discharges: Motor Commands and Perception’ in V.B. Brooks (ed.), Handbook of Physiology, Sect. 1, Vol. II, part 2, Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, pp. 1415–48Google Scholar
  10. Proske, U. (1981) `The Golgi Tendon Organ: Properties of the Receptor and Reflex Action of Impulses Arising from Tendon Organs’ in R. Porter (ed.), Int. Rev. Physiol, Neurophysiol., IV, University Park Press, Baltimore, pp. 127–72Google Scholar
  11. Vallbo, A.B., Hagbarth, K.-E., Torebjork, H.E. et al (1979) `Somatosensory, Proprioceptive and Sympathetic Activity in Human Peripheral Nerves’, Physiol. Rev, 59, pp. 919–57Google Scholar

Original Papers

  1. Banks, R.W., Barker, D., Bessou, P., et al (1978) `Histological Analysis of Muscle Spindles Following Direct Observation of Effects of Stimulating Dynamic and Static Motor Axons,’ J. Physiol., 283, pp. 605–19Google Scholar
  2. Binder, M.D., Kroin, J.S., Moore, G.P., et al (1977) `The Response of Golgi Tendon Organs to Single Motor Unit Contractions’, J. Physiol., 271, pp. 337–49Google Scholar
  3. Boyd, I.A. (1962) `The Structure and Innervation of the Nuclear Chain Muscle Fibre System in Mammalian Muscle Spindles, Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B, 245, pp. 81–136Google Scholar
  4. Boyd, I.A. (1976) `The Mechanical Properties of Dynamic Nuclear Bag Fibres, Static Nuclear Bag Fibres and Nuclear Chain Fibres in Isolated Cat Muscle Spindles’, Prog. Brain Res, 44, pp. 33–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boyd, I.A. Gladden, M.H. and Ward, J. (1981) `The Contribution of Mechanical Events in the Dynamic Bagi Intrafusal Fibre in Isolated Cat Muscle Spindles to the Form of the la Afferent Axon Discharge’, J. Physiol, 317, pp. 80–81 PGoogle Scholar
  6. Boyd, I.A. and Ward, J. (1975) `Motor Control of Nuclear Bag and Nuclear Chain Intrafusal Fibres in Isolated Living Muscle Spindles from the Cat’, J. Physiol, 224, pp. 83–112Google Scholar
  7. Brown, M.C., Crowe, A. and Matthews, P.B.C. (1965) `Observations on the Fusimotor Fibres of the Tibialis Posterior Muscle of the Cat’, J. Physiol, 177, pp. 140–59Google Scholar
  8. Clark, F.J. and Burgess, P.R. (1975) `Slowly Adapting Receptors in Cat Knee Joint: Can They Signal Joint Angle? ’ J. Neurophysiol, 38, pp. 1448–63Google Scholar
  9. Crago, P.E., Houk, J.C. and Rymer, W.Z. (1982) `Sampling of Total Muscle Force by Tendon Organs’, J. Neurophysiol, 47, pp. 1069–83Google Scholar
  10. Crowe, A. and Matthews, P.B.C. (1964) `The Effects of Simulation of Static and Dynamic Fusimotor Fibres on the Response to Stretching of the Primary Endings of Muscle Spindles’, J. Physiol, 174, pp. 109–31 (see also 175, pp. 132–51 )Google Scholar
  11. Gelfan, S. and Carter, S. (1967) `Muscle Sense in Man’, Exp. Neurol, 18, pp. 469–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Goodwin, G.M., McCloskey, D.J. and Matthews, P.B.C. (1972) `The Contribution of Muscle Afferents to Kinaesthesia Shown by Vibration-induced Illusions of Movement and by the Effects of Paralysing Joint Afferents’, Brain, 95, pp. 705–48Google Scholar
  13. Jansen, J.K.S. and Matthews, P.B.C. (1962) `The Effects of Fusimotor Activity on the Static Responsiveness of Primary and Secondary Endings of Muscle Spindles in the Decerebrate Cat’, Acta Physiol. Scand, 55, pp. 376–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Houk, J.C. and Henneman, E. (1967) `Responses of Golgi Tendon Organs to Active Contractions of the Soleus Muscle of the Cat’, J. Neurophysiol, 30, pp. 466–81Google Scholar
  15. Matthews, B.H.C. (1933) `Nerve Endings in Mammalian Muscle’, J. Physiol, 78, pp. 1–53Google Scholar
  16. Mathews, P.B.C. (1964) `Muscle Spindles and Their Motor Control’, Physiol. Rev, 44, pp. 219–88Google Scholar
  17. Mathews, P.B.C. and Simmons (1974) `Sensations of Finger Movement Elicited by Pulling Upon Flexor Tendons in Man’, J. Physiol, 239, pp. 27–28 PGoogle Scholar
  18. Mathews, P.B.C. and Stein, R.B. (1969) `The Sensitivity of Muscle Spindle Afferents to Small Sinusoidal Changes of Length’, J. Physiol, 200, pp. 723–43Google Scholar
  19. Ruffini, A. (1898) `On the Minute Anatomy of the Neuromuscular Spindles of the Cat, and on their Physiological Significance’, J. Physiol, 23, pp. 190–208Google Scholar
  20. Skoglund, S. (1956) `Anatomical and Physiological Studies of Knee Joint Innervation in the Cat’, Acta Physiol. Scand, 36, suppl. 124, pp. 1–101Google Scholar
  21. Vallbo, A.B. and Hagbarth, K.-E. (1968) `Activity from Skin Mechanoreceptors Recorded Percutaneously in Awake Human Subjects, Exp. Neurol, 21, pp. 270–89Google Scholar

Recent Papers

  1. Emonet-Denand, F. and Laporte, Y. (1981) `Muscle Stretch as a Way of Detecting Brief Activation of Bagt Fibres by Dynamic Axons’ in A. Taylor and A. Prochazka (eds.), Muscle Receptors and Movement, Macmillan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. McCloskey, D.I., Cross, M.J., Honner, R. et al (1983) `Sensory Effects of Pulling or Vibrating Exposed Tendons in Man’, Brain, 106, pp. 21–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Moberg, E. (1983) `The Role of Cutaneous Afferents in Position Sense, Kinaesthesia and Motor Function of the Hand’, Brain, 106, pp. 1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Morgan, D.L., Prochazka, A. and Proske, U. (1984) `The After-Effects of Stretch and Fusimotor Stimulation on the Responses of Primary Endings of Cat Muscle Spindles’, J. Physiol, 356, pp. 465–77Google Scholar
  5. Schaible, H.-G. and Schmidt, R.E. (1983) `Responses of Fine Medial Articular Nerve Afferents to Passive Movements of Knee Joint’, J. Neurophysiol, 49, pp. 1118–26Google Scholar
  6. Vallbo, A.B., Olsson, K.A., Westberg, K.-G., et al (1984) `Microstimulation of Single Tactile Afferents from the Human Hand’, Brain, 107, pp. 727–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© John C. Rothwell 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • John C. Rothwell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neurology, Institute of PsychiatryUniversity of LondonUK

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