Cerebral potentials and electromyographic responses evoked by stretch of wrist muscles in man

G. Abbruzzese, A. Berardelli, J. C. Rothwell, B. L. Day, C. D. Marsden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The cerebral evoked potential produced by rapid extension of the wrist was recorded from scalp electrodes in normal subjects while they exerted a small background flexor torque (0.24 Nm) against an electric motor. The initial part of the response consisted of a negative deflection (N1) with an average latency of 24.7 ms. This was followed by a biphasic P1/P2 (32 ms) response and a large later negative wave (N2) (76 ms). Passive wrist extension also evoked reflex EMG responses in the forearm flexor muscles which could be resolved into a short latency (25 ms) and long-latency (52 ms) component. The cerebral responses persisted almost unchanged during complete ischaemic anaesthesia of the hand produced by a pressure cuff around the wrist, and were reduced if the stretch was given during voluntary wrist flexion. The primary component (N1-P1/ P2) of the cerebral response probably represents the arrival at the cortex of the muscle afferent volley. However, the significance of the secondary component (P1/P2-N2) is unknown. Under certain conditions, its size was related to the size of the long latency stretch reflex evoked by stretch of the flexor muscles. Thus, increasing the velocity of stretch or decreasing the repetition rate (from 1.0 to 0.15 Hz) at which stretches were applied, increased the size of both the muscle reflex and the cerebral response. The secondary component also could be changed by voluntary reaction to wrist stretch. Changes in the size of the secondary component of the evoked response may represent the earliest cortical sign of interaction between sensory input and motor output.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-551
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 1985


  • Long latency stretch reflex
  • Somatosensory evoked potential

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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