Loss of large-diameter spindle afferent fibres is not detrimental to the control of body sway during upright stance: Evidence from neuropathy

A. Nardone, J. Tarantola, G. Miscio, F. Pisano, A. Schenone, M. Schieppati

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Fifteen patients with Charcot-Marie-Tooth type 1A (CMT1 A) disease and 46 normal controls were studied. In the patients, leg muscle strength, touch-pressure, vibration and joint position sense were reduced; lower limb tendon reflexes were absent in 12 or markedly decreased. Motor and sensory conduction velocity (CV) of leg nerves was either reduced or not measurable. The Neurological Disability Score and the Neuropathy Score were obtained from clinical and electrophysiological examination, respectively. Tilt of a supporting platform elicited short- (SLR) and medium-latency (MLR) responses to stretch in the foot muscle flexor digitorum brevis (FDB) in controls. In the patients, the former response was absent and the latter delayed. These findings are in keeping with the known loss of large-diameter myelinated fibres, with relative sparing of the smaller fibres. The MLR delay was fully accounted for by the slowed CV of the motor fibres. The MLR afferent time was similar to that in normal subjects. Body sway area (SA) during quiet stance was recorded with eyes open or closed, and with feet apart or together. Under all postural and visual conditions, SA was within normal range in the less severely affected patients, but was moderately increased in the patients with a more severe neuropathy score. Across all patients, no correlation was found between SA and muscle force, motor CV, touch pressure, vibration and joint position sense, considered either separately or as an aggregate. We suggest that: (1) functional integrity of the largest afferent fibres is not necessary for appropriate equilibrium control during quiet stance and (2) any unsteadiness is related to additional functional alterations in smaller fibres, most likely group II spindle afferent fibres.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-162
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease Polyneuropathy Stance
  • Posture
  • Reflex responses to perturbation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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