Human cervical spinal cord circuitry activated by tonic input can generate rhythmic arm movements

I. A. Solopova, V. A. Selionov, D. S. Zhvansky, V. S. Gurfinkel, Y. Ivanenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The coordination between arms and legs during human locomotion shares many features with that in quadrupeds, yet there is limited evidence for the central pattern generator for the upper limbs in humans. Here we investigated whether different types of tonic stimulation, previously used for eliciting stepping-like leg movements, may evoke nonvoluntary rhythmic arm movements. Twenty healthy subjects participated in this study. The subject was lying on the side, the trunk was fixed, and all four limbs were suspended in a gravity neutral position, allowing unrestricted low-friction limb movements in the horizontal plane. The results showed that peripheral sensory stimulation (continuous muscle vibration) and central tonic activation (postcontraction state of neuronal networks following a long-lasting isometric voluntary effort, Kohnstamm phenomenon) could evoke nonvoluntary rhythmic arm movements in most subjects. In ~40% of subjects, tonic stimulation elicited nonvoluntary rhythmic arm movements together with rhythmic movements of suspended legs. The fact that not all participants exhibited nonvoluntary limb oscillations may reflect interindividual differences in responsiveness of spinal pattern generation circuitry to its activation. The occurrence and the characteristics of induced movements highlight the rhythmogenesis capacity of cervical neuronal circuitries, complementing the growing body of work on the quadrupedal nature of human gait.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1018-1030
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 19 2016


  • Arm-leg coordination
  • Central pattern generator
  • Human cervical spinal cord
  • Kohnstamm phenomenon
  • Sensory stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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