Functional Consequences of Activity in Spinal Reflex Pathways

  • John C. Rothwell


Although the tendon jerk had been brought to the notice of scientists as early as 1875 by Erb and Westphal, much of the early work on the stretch reflex was performed on animals. This was principally due to the fact that the tendon jerk was for many years regarded as a direct response of the muscle to percussion rather than being a reflex event.


Muscle Spindle Stretch Reflex Cutaneous Reflex Afferent Volley Reflex Contraction 
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References and Further Reading

Review Articles and Books (see also references to Chapter 5)

  1. Barnes, W.J.P. and Gladden, M.H. (eds.) (1985) Feedback and Motor Control in Invertebrates and Vertebrates, Croom Helm, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. Burke, D. (1983) `Critical Examination of the Case For or Against Fusimotor Involvement in Disorders of Muscle Tone’ in J.E. Desmedt (ed.), Advances in Neurology, Vol. 39, pp. 133–50Google Scholar
  3. Lance, J.W., Burke, D. and Andrews, C.J. (1973) The Reflex Effects of Muscle Vibration’ in J.E. Desmedt (ed.), New Developments in Electromyography and Clinical Neurophysiology, Vol. 3, Karger, Basel, pp. 444–62Google Scholar
  4. Marsden, C.D., Rothwell, J.C. and Day, B.L. (1983) `Long-latency Automatic Responses to Muscle Stretch in Man: Origin and Function’ in J.E. Desmedt (ed.), Advances in Neurology, Vol. 39, pp. 509–39Google Scholar
  5. Merton, P.A. (1953) `Speculations on the Servo-control of Movement’ in J.L. Malcolm, J.A.B. Gray and G.E.W. Wolstenholme (eds.), The Spinal Cord, Little Brown, Boston, pp. 183–98Google Scholar
  6. Pierrot-Deseilligny, E. and Maziers, L. (1984) `Circuits Reflexes de la Moelle Epiniere Chez l’Homme. Controle au Cours du Mouvement et Role Fonctionnel’, Rev. Neurologique, 140, pp. 605–14 and 681–94Google Scholar
  7. Prochazka, A. and Hulliger, M. (1983) `Muscle Afferent Function and Its Significance for Motor Control Mechanisms During Voluntary Movements in Cat, Monkey and Man in J.E. Desmedt (ed.) Advances in Neurology, Vol. 39, Raven Press, New York, pp. 93–132Google Scholar
  8. Taylor, A. and Prochazka, A. (1980) Muscle Receptors and Movement, MacMillan, LondonGoogle Scholar

Original Papers

  1. Berger, W., Horstmann, G. and Dietz, V. (1984) `Tension Development and Muscle Activation in the Leg During Gait in Spastic Hemiparesis: Independence of Muscle Hypertonia and Exaggerated Stretch Reflexes’, J. Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiat, 47, pp. 1029–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Burke, D., Andrews, C.J. and Lance, J.W. (1972) `The Tonic Vibration Reflex in Spasticity, Parkinson’s Disease and Normal Man’, J. Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiat, 35, pp. 477–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Burke, D. Gandevia, S.C. and McKeon, B. (1983) `The Afferent Volleys Responsible for Spinal Proprioceptive Reflexes in Man’, J. Physiol, 339, pp. 535–52Google Scholar
  4. Burke, D. Gillies, J.D. and Lance, J.W. (1970) `The Quadriceps Stretch Reflex in Human Spasticity’, J. Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiat, 33, pp. 216–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Creed, R.S., Denny-Brown, D., Eccles, J.C. et al (1932) Reflex Activity of the Spinal Cord (2nd edn), copyright Oxford University Press (1972), OxfordGoogle Scholar
  6. Day, B.L., Marsden, C.D., Obeso, J.A. et al (1984) `Reciprocal Inhibition Between the Muscles of the Human Forearm’, J. Physiol, 349, pp. 519–34Google Scholar
  7. DeGail, P., Lance, J.W. and Nielson, P.D. (1966) `Differential Effects on Tonic and Phasic Reflex Mechanisms Produced by Vibration of Muscles in Man’, J. Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiat, 29, pp. 1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dietz, V., Quintern, J. and Berger, W. (1981) `Electrophysiological Studies of Gait in Spasticity’, Brain, 104, pp. 431–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Eklund, G., Hagbarth, K.-E., Hagglund, J.V., et al (1982) `Mechanical Oscillations Contributing to the Segmentation of the Reflex Electromyogram Response to Stretching Human Muscles’, J. Physiol, 32, pp. 65–77 (see also pp. 79–90)Google Scholar
  10. Eldred, E., Granit, R. and Merton, P.A. (1953) `Supraspinal Control of the Muscle Spindles and its Significance’, J. Physiol, pp. 498–523Google Scholar
  11. Hammond, P.H., Merton, P.A. and Sutton, G.C. (1956) `Nervous Gradation of Muscular Contraction’, Br. Med. Bull, 12, pp. 214–18Google Scholar
  12. Houk, J.C. and Rymer, W.Z. (1981) `Neural Control of Muscle Length and Tension’ in V.B. Brooks (ed.), Handbook of Physiology, Sect. 1, Vol. II, Part 1, Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, pp. 257–323Google Scholar
  13. Jenner, J.R. and Stephens, J.A. (1982) `Cutaneous Reflex Responses and their Central Nervous Pathways Studied in Man’, J. Physiol, 333, pp. 405–19Google Scholar
  14. Katz, R., and Pierrot-Deseilligny, E. (1982) `Recurrent Inhibition of y-Motoneurones in Patients with Upper Motor Neuron Lesions’, Brain, 105, pp. 103–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kugelberg, E., Eklund, K. and Grimby, L. (1960) `An Electromyographic Study of the Nociceptive Reflexes of the Lower Limb. Mechanism of the Plantar Responses’, Brain, 83, pp. 394–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Marsden, C.D., Merton, P.A. and Morton, H.B. (1973) `Is the Human Stretch Reflex Cortical Rather than Spinal?’ Lancet, i, pp. 759–61Google Scholar
  17. Matthews, P.B.C., and Rushworth, G. (1958) `The Discharge from Muscle Spindles as an Indicator of y Efferent Paralysis by Procaine’, J. Physiol, 140, pp. 421–6Google Scholar
  18. Matthews, P.B.C. (1984) `Evidence From the Use of Vibration that the Human Long-latency Stretch Reflex Depends Upon Spindle Secondary Afferents’, J. Physiol, 348, pp. 383–416Google Scholar
  19. Nichols, T.R. and Houk, J.C. (1976) `The Improvement in Linearity and the Regulation of Stiffness that Results from the Action of the Stretch Reflex’, J. Neurophysiol, 39, pp. 119–42Google Scholar
  20. Pierrot-Deseilligny, E., Bergego, C., Katz, R., et al (1981) `Cutaneous Depression of lb Reflex Pathways to Motoneurones in Man’, Exp. Brain Res, 42, pp. 351–61Google Scholar
  21. Rymer, W.Z., Houk, J.C. and Crago, P.E. (1979) `Mechanisms of the Clasp-Knife Reflex Studied in an Animal Model, Exp. Brain Res, 37, pp. 93–113Google Scholar
  22. Tanaka, R. (1974) `Reciprocal la Inhibition During Voluntary Movements in Man’, Exp. Brain Res, 21, pp. 529–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Tatton, W.G., Bellingham, W., Verrier, M.C., et al (1984) `Characteristic Alterations in Responses to Imposed Wrist Displacements in Parkinsonian Rigidity and Dystonia Musculorum Deformans’, Can. J. Neurol. Sci, 11, pp. 281–7 (see also pp. 228–96)Google Scholar
  24. Vallbo, A.B. (1970) `Slowly Adapting Muscle Receptors in Man’, Acta Physiol. Scand., 78, pp. 315–33 (see also 80 pp. 552–66 )Google Scholar
  25. Yanagisawa, N., Tanaka, R. and Ito, Z. (1975) `Reciprocal Ia Inhibition in Spastic Hemiplegia of Man’, Brain, 99, pp. 555–74CrossRefGoogle 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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