Intrinsic Properties and Reflex Compensation in Reinnervated Triceps Surae Muscles of the Cat: Effect of Activation Level

Clotilde M.J.I. Huyghues-Despointes
Timothy C. Cope, Wright State University - Main Campus
T. Richard Nichols


The manner in which activation levels influence intrinsic muscular properties and contributions of the stretch reflex were studied in homogeneous soleus (SOL) and heterogeneous gastrocnemius (G) muscles in the decerebrate cat. Intrinsic mechanical properties were represented by the initial stiffness of the muscle, measured prior to reflex action, and by the tendency of the muscle to yield during stretch in the absence of the stretch reflex. Stiffness regulation by the stretch reflex was evaluated by measuring the extent to which reflex action reduces yielding and the extent to which stiffness depends on background force. Intrinsic mechanical properties were measured in muscles deprived of effective autogenic reflexes using the method of muscular reinnervation. Reinnervated muscles were recruited to force levels comparable to those achieved during natural locomotion. As force declined during crossed-extension reflexes in reinnervated and intact muscles, initial stiffness declined according to similar convex trajectories. The data did not support the hypothesis that, for a given force level, initial stiffness is greatest in populations of predominantly type I motor units. Incremental stiffness (Δfl) of both G and SOL increased in the presence of the stretch reflex. Yielding of SOL (ratio of incremental to initial stiffness) substantially decreased in the presence of the stretch reflex over the full range of forces. In reflexive G, yielding significantly decreased for low to intermediate forces, whereas at higher forces, yielding was similar irrespective of the presence or absence of the stretch reflex. The stretch reflex regulates stiffness in both homogeneous and heterogeneous muscles.