It has been shown that sinusoidal galvanic vestibular stimulation (sGVS) has no effect on the firing of spontaneously active muscle spindles in either relaxed or voluntarily contracting human leg muscles. However, all previous studies have been conducted on subjects in a seated position. Given that independent vestibular control of muscle spindle firing would be more valuable during postural threat, we tested the hypothesis that this modulation would become apparent for subjects in a near-vertical position. Unitary recordings were made from 18 muscle spindle afferents via tungsten microelectrodes inserted percutaneously into the common peroneal nerve of awake human subjects laying supine on a motorized tilt table. All recorded spindle afferents were spontaneously active at rest, and each increased its firing rate during a weak static contraction. Sinusoidal bipolar binaural galvanic vestibular stimulation (±2 mA, 100 cycles) was applied to the mastoid processes at 0.8 Hz. This continuous stimulation produced a sustained illusion of “rocking in a boat” or “swinging in a hammock.” The subject was then moved into a near-vertical position (75°), and the stimulation repeated. Despite robust vestibular illusions, none of the fusimotor-driven spindles exhibited phase-locked modulation of firing during sinusoidal GVS in either position. We conclude that this dynamic vestibular stimulus was insufficient to modulate the firing of fusimotor neurons in the near-vertical position. However, this does not mean that the vestibular system cannot modulate the sensitivity of muscle spindles via fusimotor neurons in free unsupported standing, when reliance on proprioceptive feedback is higher.
- gamma motoneurones
- postural control
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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