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Cutaneous control of group I pathways from ankle flexors to extensors in man


Reciprocal inhibition from the anterior tibial muscle onto antagonist motoneurones of the soleus muscle was studied in normal man under control conditions and after low intensity stimulation of cutaneous afferent fibres from the sole and dorsal region of the ipsilateral and contralateral foot. Ipsilateral cutaneous stimulation increased the reciprocal inhibition to the soleus motoneurones, without qualitative differences between the effect from the sole and that from the dorsal region of the foot. Stimulation of cutaneous afferent fibres from the contralateral foot produced the reverse effect, i.e., depression of the Ia reciprocal inhibition from the tibialis anterior to the soleus motoneurones. No effects could be observed when cutaneous areas other than those of the foot were stimulated. The effects of cutaneous stimulation on the reciprocal inhibition became evident only when this inhibition approached its maximum and, thus, they most strongly influenced its recovery phase. Since cutaneous stimulation does not modify the test reflex when given alone, it is likely that there must be convergence on common premotoneuronal interneurones. Indirect evaluation of central delay suggests that the cutaneous afferent fibres from the foot have oligosynaptic spinal connections with interneurones belonging to the group I pathways to the antagonists. Our findings furnish additional evidence that short-latency inhibition of soleus motoneurones after a single conditioning stimulation of group I afferents from the tibialis anterior muscle constitutes a true example of disynaptic Ia reciprocal inhibition in man.

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Correspondence to A. Rossi.

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Rossi, A., Mazzocchio, R. Cutaneous control of group I pathways from ankle flexors to extensors in man. Exp Brain Res 73, 8–14 (1988).

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Key words

  • Cutaneous afferent fibres
  • Group I afferent fibres
  • Reciprocal inhibition
  • Spinal interneurones