Postural corrections of the upper limb are required in tasks ranging from handling an umbrella in the changing wind to securing a wriggling baby. One complication in this process is the mechanical interaction between the different segments of the arm where torque applied at one joint induces motion at multiple joints. Previous studies have shown the long-latency reflexes of shoulder muscles (50–100 ms after a limb perturbation) account for these mechanical interactions by integrating information about motion of both the shoulder and elbow. It is less clear whether long-latency reflexes of elbow muscles exhibit a similar capability and what is the relation between the responses of shoulder and elbow muscles. The present study utilized joint-based loads tailored to the subjects' arm dynamics to induce well-controlled displacements of their shoulder and elbow. Our results demonstrate that the long-latency reflexes of shoulder and elbow muscles integrate motion from both joints: the shoulder and elbow flexors respond to extension at both joints, whereas the shoulder and elbow extensors respond to flexion at both joints. This general pattern accounts for the inherent flexion-extension coupling of the two joints arising from the arm's intersegmental dynamics and is consistent with spindle-based reciprocal excitation of shoulder and elbow flexors, reciprocal excitation of shoulder and elbow extensors, and across-joint inhibition between the flexors and extensors.
- heteronymous reflex
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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