Modulation of the Hoffmann reflex by rapid muscle contraction or release

M. Schieppati, A. Nardone, M. Musazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The inhibition of the H-reflex of the Soleus (Sol) muscle that takes place during and after voluntary release of Sol muscle has been attributed to presynaptic inhibition of autogenetic spindle afferences. In the present study, the timerelationship between onset of H-reflex depression and termination of Sol contraction was investigated to ascertain whether the reflex inhibition is linked to the command to release, or whether it is an accompanying phenomenon connected to changes in the neural outflow from the periphery. A parallel investigation was carried out on the temporal characteristics of the facilitation of the H-reflex that precedes onset of Sol contraction, in an attempt to point at the different functional organization of the two motor tasks. Voluntary releases from a bilateral isometric plantar torque, or bilateral plantar flexions, were performed in response to an acoustic stimulus, in a reaction time (RT) situation. The intervals from the starting signal to complete termination, or to beginning, of the Sol EMG were measured. The H-reflex was evoked at random during the tasks in one leg and its amplitude was referred in time to the end, or to the onset, of the EMG recorded from the contralateral Sol muscle. The RTs of the termination of Sol EMG had an average duration of about 100 ms, being some 20 ms shorter than those of the onset of EMG. In the release-task, the H-reflex amplitude was higher than that of the controls during the holding phase, and started to decrease about 20 ms before the cessation of the EMG. At the end of the EMG, the amplitude of the reflex was lower than the amplitude of the controls, and a few ms later the reflexes were nearly completely inhibited. These changes in excitability paralleled the time-course of the EMG decay, whereas they preceded any detectable change in the plantar food torque. In the onset-task, the H-reflexes underwent significant increases in amplitude at intervals shorter than 50 ms prior to EMG onset, contrary to previous reports. No correlation was found between duration of premovement facilitation and RTs. The results are discussed in the light of the possible role played by the presynaptic inhibition prior to voluntary onset or termination of muscle contraction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-66
Number of pages8
JournalHuman Neurobiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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