Reflex Pathways in the Spinal Cord

  • John C. Rothwell


Reflexes are most easily observed and analysed when the spinal cord receives a synchronous volley of afferent input. Because of this, the afferent volley usually has been provoked by electrical stimulation of nerves, rather than by natural stimulation of peripheral receptors. The result has been that most reflex stimuli, especially in animal experiments, are described in terms of the intensity of electrical stimulation of the nerve, rather than in terms of which sensory receptors have been activated. Fortunately, in muscle nerves there is a fairly close relationship between the electrical stimulation threshold of a fibre and the sensory receptor which it innervates.


Conditioning Stimulus Ventral Root Presynaptic Inhibition Reflex Pathway Renshaw Cell 
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References and Further Reading

Review Articles

  1. Baldissera, F., Hultborn, H. and Illert, M. (1981) `Integration in Spinal Neuronal Systems’ in V.B. Brooks (ed.), Handbook of Physiology, sect. 1, vol. II, part 1, Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, pp. 509–97Google Scholar
  2. Brown, A.G. (1981) Organisation in the Spinal Cord, Springer-Verlag, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Fyffe, R.E.W. (1984) `Afferent Fibres’ in R.A. Davidoff (ed.), Handbook of the Spinal Cord, vols. 2 and 3, Marcel Dekker Inc, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Lundberg, A. (1975) `Control of Spinal Mechanisms from the Brain’ in D.B. Tower (ed.), The Nervous System, Vol. 1, The Basic Neurosciences, Raven Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Patton, H. (1982) `Spinal Reflexes and Synaptic Transmission’ in T. Ruch and H.D. Patton (eds.), Physiology and Biophysics, vol. IV, W.B. Saunders, Philadelphia, pp. 261–302Google Scholar

Original Papers

  1. Araki, T., Eccles, J.C. and Ito, M. (1960) `Correlation of the Inhibitory Post-Synaptic Potential of Motoneurones with the Latency and Time Course of Inhibition of Monosynaptic Reflexes’, J. Physiol, 154, pp. 354–77Google Scholar
  2. Brink, E., Jankowska, E., McCrea, D.A., et al (1983) `Inhibitory Interactions Between Intemeurones in Reflex Pathways from Group la and Group lb Afferents in the Cat’, J. Physiol, 343, pp. 361–73Google Scholar
  3. Brink, E. Jankowska, E. and Skoog, B. (1984) `Convergence onto Interneurones Subserving Primary Afferent Depolarisation of Group I Afferents’, J. Neurophysiol, 51, pp. 432–49Google Scholar
  4. Eccles, J.C., Eccles, R.M. and Lundberg, A. (1957a) `The Convergence of Monosynaptic Excitatory Afferents on to Many Different Species of Alpha Motoneurones’, J. Physiol, 137, pp. 22–50Google Scholar
  5. Brink, E. (1957b) `Synaptic Actions on Motoneurones Caused By Impulses in Golgi Tendon Organ Afferents’, J. Physiol, 138, pp. 227–52Google Scholar
  6. Eccles, R.M. and Lundberg, A. (1959) `Synaptic Actions in Motoneurones by Afferents Which May Evoke the Flexion Reflex’, Arch. Ital. Biol, 97, pp. 271–98Google Scholar
  7. Harrison, P.J., Jankowska, E. and Johannisson, T. (1983) `Shared Reflex Pathways of Group I Afferents of Different Cat Hind-limb Muscles’, J. Physiol, 338, 113–27Google Scholar
  8. Hultborn, H. (1976) `Transmission in the Pathway of Reciprocal la Inhibition to Motoneurones and Its Control During the Tonic Stretch Reflex’ in S. Homma (ed.), Progress in Brain Research, Vol. 44. Understanding the Stretch Reflex,Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 235–55Google Scholar
  9. Hultborn, H. Illert, M. and Santini, M. (1976) `Convergence on Interneurones Mediating the Reciprocal la Inhibition of Motoneurones’, Acta Physiol. Scand, 96, pp. 193–201; 351–67; 368–91Google Scholar
  10. Hultborn, H., Lindstrom, S. and Wigstrom, H. (1979) `On the Function of Recurrent Inhibition in the Spinal Cord’, Exp. Brain Res, 37, pp. 399–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hultborn, H. and Pierrot-Deseilligny, E. (1979) ‘Changes in Recurrent Inhibition During Voluntary Soleus Contractions in Man Studied by an H-reflex Technique’, J. Physiol, 297, pp. 229–51Google Scholar
  12. Jankowska, E. and Lindstrom, S. (1971) `Morphology of Interneurones Mediating la Reciprocal Inhibition of Motoneurones in the Spinal Cord of the Cat’, J. Physiol, 226, pp. 805–23Google Scholar
  13. Laporte, Y. and Lloyd, D.P.C. (1952) `Nature and Significance of the Reflex Connections Established by Large Afferent Fibres of Muscular Origin’, Am. J. Physiol, 169, pp. 609–21Google Scholar
  14. Lloyd, D.P.C. (1943) `Neuron Patterns Controlling Transmission of Ipsilateral Hindlimb Reflexes in Cat’, J. Neurophysiol, 6, pp. 293–315 (see also pp. 111–20 and 137–326)Google Scholar
  15. Matthews, P.B.C. (1969) `Evidence that the Secondary as well as the Primary Endings of the Muscle Spindles May Be Responsible for the Tonic Stretch Reflex of the Decerebrate Cat’, J. Physiol, 204, pp. 365–93Google Scholar
  16. Renshaw, B. (1940) `Activity in the Simplest Spinal Reflex Pathways’, J. Neurophysiol, 3, pp. 373–87Google Scholar
  17. Schmidt, R.F. (1971) ‘Presynaptic Inhibition in the Vertebrate Central Nervous System’, Ergeb. Physiol. Biol. Chem. Exp. Pharmakol, 63, pp. 20–201Google 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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