Neurophysiological bases of spasticity

  • M. Wiesendanger


Spasticity is an ill-defined term. Lance (1980) proposed an operational and relatively straightforward definition: “Spasticity is a motor disorder characterized by a velocity-dependent increase in tonic stretch reflexes (muscle tone) with exaggerated tendon jerks, resulting from hyperexcitability of the stretch reflex, as one component of the upper motor neuron syndrome.” This definition not only emphasizes the reflex nature of tone and spasticity, but also suggests that hypertonia is just one component of a more complex motor disorder that may be subsumed under the term “spastic syndrome”. In this contribution, I will argue that the reflex-notion of tone does not provide sufficient pathophysiological background for understanding the motor disorder of spasticity. Tone and posture is a prerequisite function for purposeful movements, often set in anticipation of goal-directed movements; what matters for the patient is how altered muscle tone is also expressed in voluntary movements. This chapter will first deal with these two aspects of tone, i.e. its reactive (reflexive) and its prospective (anticipatory) nature.


Neurophysiological Basis Cutaneous Reflex Receptor Supersensitivity Purposeful Movement Spinal Circuit 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Wiesendanger
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut de PhysiologieUniversité de FribourgFribourgSwitzerland

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