Sympathetic outflow enhances the stretch reflex response in the relaxed soleus muscle in humans.
ABSTRACT Animal experiments suggest that an increase in sympathetic outflow can depress muscle spindle sensitivity and thus modulate the stretch reflex response. The results are, however, controversial, and human studies have failed to demonstrate a direct influence of the sympathetic nervous system on the sensitivity of muscle spindles. We studied the effect of increased sympathetic outflow on the short-latency stretch reflex in the soleus muscle evoked by tapping the Achilles tendon. Nine subjects performed three maneuvers causing a sustained activation of sympathetic outflow to the leg: 3 min of static handgrip exercise at 30% of maximal voluntary contraction, followed by 3 min of posthandgrip ischemia, and finally during a 3-min mental arithmetic task. Electromyography was measured from the soleus muscle with bipolar surface electrodes during the Achilles tendon tapping, and beat-to-beat changes in heart rate and mean arterial blood pressure were monitored continuously. Mean arterial pressure was significantly elevated during all three maneuvers, whereas heart rate was significantly elevated during static handgrip exercise and mental arithmetic but not during posthandgrip ischemia. The peak-to-peak amplitude of the short-latency stretch reflex was significantly increased during mental arithmetic (P < 0.05), static handgrip exercise (P < 0.001), and posthandgrip ischemia (P < 0.005). When expressed in percent change from rest, the mean peak-to-peak amplitude increased by 111 (SD 100)% during mental arithmetic, by 160 (SD 103)% during static handgrip exercise, and by 90 (SD 67)% during posthandgrip ischemia. The study clearly indicates a facilitation of the short-latency stretch reflex during increased sympathetic outflow. We note that the enhanced stretch reflex responses observed in relaxed muscles in the absence of skeletomotor activity support the idea that the sympathetic nervous system can exert a direct influence on the human muscle spindles.
Article: The effects of experimental muscle and skin pain on the static stretch sensitivity of human muscle spindles in relaxed leg muscles.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Animal studies have shown that noxious inputs onto gamma-motoneurons can cause an increase in the activity of muscle spindles, and it has been proposed that this causes a fusimotor-driven increase in muscle stiffness that is believed to underlie many chronic pain syndromes. To test whether experimental pain also acts on the fusimotor system in humans, unitary recordings were made from 19 spindle afferents (12 Ia, 7 II) located in the ankle and toe extensors or peronei muscles of awake human subjects. Muscle pain was induced by bolus intramuscular injection of 0.5 ml 5% hypertonic saline into tibialis anterior (TA); skin pain was induced by 0.2 ml injection into the overlying skin. Changes in fusimotor drive to the muscle spindles were inferred from changes in the mean discharge frequency and discharge variability of spindle endings in relaxed muscle. During muscle pain no afferents increased their discharge activity: seven afferents (5 Ia, 2 II) showed a decrease and six (4 Ia, 2 II) afferents were not affected. During skin pain of 13 afferents discharge rate increased in one (Ia) and decreased in two (1 Ia, 1 II). On average, the overall discharge rate decreased during muscle pain by 6.1% (P < 0.05; Wilcoxon), but remained essentially the same during skin pain. There was no detectable correlation between subjective pain level and the small change in discharge rate of muscle spindles. Irrespective of the type of pain, discharge variability parameters were not influenced (P > 0.05; Wilcoxon). We conclude that, contrary to the 'vicious cycle' hypothesis, acute activation of muscle or skin nociceptors does not cause a reflex increase in fusimotor drive in humans. Rather, our results are more aligned with the pain adaptation model, based on clinical studies predicting pain-induced reductions of agonist muscle activity.The Journal of Physiology 06/2008; 586(Pt 11):2713-23. · 4.72 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Optimal motor control of the spine depends on proprioceptive input as a prerequisite for co-ordination and the stability of the spine. Muscle spindles are known to play an important role in proprioception. Animal experiments suggest that an increase in sympathetic outflow can depress muscle spindle sensitivity. As the muscle spindle may be influenced by sympathetic modulation, we hypothesized that a state of high sympathetic activity as during mental stress would affect the proprioceptive output from the muscle spindles in the back muscles leading to alterations in proprioception and position sense acuity. The aim was to investigate the effect of mental stress, in this study the response to an electrical shock stressor, on position sense acuity in the rotational axis of the lumbar spine. Passive and active position sense acuity in the rotational plane of the lumbar spine was investigated in the presence and absence of an electrical shock stressor in 14 healthy participants. An electrical shock-threat stressor lasting for approximately 12 minutes was used as imposed stressor to build up a strong anticipatory arousal: The participants were told that they were going to receive 8 painful electrical shocks however the participants never received the shocks. To quantify the level of physiological arousal and the level of sympathetic outflow continuous beat-to-beat changes in heart rate (beats x min(-1)) and systolic, diastolic and mean arterial blood pressure (mmHg) were measured. To quantify position sense acuity absolute error (AE) expressed in degrees was measured. Two-way analysis of variance with repeated measurements (subjects as random factor and treatments as fixed factors) was used to compare the different treatments. Significant increases were observed in systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate during the stress sessions indicating elevated sympathetic activity (15, 14 and 10%, respectively). Despite pronounced changes in the sympathetic activity and subjective experiences of stress no changes were found in position sense acuity in the rotational plane of the lumbar spine in the presence of the electrical shock stressor compared to the control period. The present findings indicate that position sense acuity in the rotational plane of the spine was unaffected by the electrical shock stressor.BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 02/2005; 6:37. · 1.58 Impact Factor