It has been shown in previous investigations that the recruitment order of motor units is different in tonic and in phasic voluntary activity. The significance of the pre-existing state of facilitation in the motoneurone pool for the recruitment of units is studied, using the phasic flexion reflex in the anterior tibial muscle as test reflex. It is shown that the recruitment order of units in a series of reflexes (1) is unstable if the subject does not expect the stimulus; (2) is stable and identical with that in tonic activity if the subject subliminally facilitates the motoneurone pool before the reflex activation; (3) is stable and almost identical with that in tonic activity if the subject expects the stimulus and therefore involuntarily influences the motoneurone pool; (4) is stable and similar to that in phasic voluntary activity if the subject inhibits the motoneurone pool before the activation and the stimulus strength thus consequentially is increased; and (5) is influenced by blockade of the proprioceptive afferent impulses from the muscle. It is concluded that normal man can select in advance the recruitment order of motor units most appropriate for the work intended.
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