Cutaneous Stimulation Fails to Alter Motor Unit Recruitment in the Decerebrate Cat

Document Type


Publication Date


Find in a Library

Catalog Record


1. An attempt was made to repeat the observation that cutaneous input to the cat medial gastrocnemius (MG) muscle sometimes had the differential effect of inhibiting motoneurons with slow axonal conduction velocity while simultaneously exciting others with fast conduction velocity. Dual microelectrode recording from intact ventral root filaments was used to study the effects of cutaneous inputs on recruitment order and on firing frequency of physiologically characterized MG motor units in decerebrate cats. Motor responses to pinch of the skin over the lateral surface of the ankle as well as electrical stimulation of the caudal cutaneous sural (CCS) nerve were contrasted with the responses to static muscle stretch as well as muscle vibration.

2. In contrast to the prediction, recruitment order in pairwise tests was the same for skin pinch or CCS stimulation as it was for MG stretch or vibration in all 32 tested pairs of motor units. This sample included seven pairs comprising one slow-twitch (S) and one fast-twitch motor unit, where the predicted reversal of recruitment should have been most apparent. Regardless of the source of excitation, recruitment of motor units of the MG was consistent with Henneman's size principle in ~90% of trials.

3. Skin pinch increased the firing rate of 30 of 32 individual motor units previously activated by stretch or vibration, including 7 slow-twitch units. In the remaining two units, skin pinch transiently (100-400 ms) slowed the firing of an S unit in 11 of 13 vibration + pinch trials. The other unit (type unknown) showed one or two retarded spikes in each of four vibration + pinch trials. In three S units, including the lone inhibitable unit and two others that were only excited by skin pinch, there was a significant positive rank correlation between change in unit firing frequency and change in soleus integrated electromyographic activity.

4. In our hands there is little evidence for differential control of fast and slow-twitch motor units; the phenomenon described previously was much more the exception than the rule.

Catalog Record