Twenty-eight mechanoreceptive units identified as primary or secondary spindle afferents were sampled from muscle nerve fascicles in the median, peroneal, and tibial nerves of healthy adult subjects. The responses of these units to sustained passive muscle stretch, to passive stretching movements, to tendon taps, and electrically-induced muscle twitches were studied while the subject performed repeated Jendrassik manoeuvres involving strong voluntary contractions in distant muscle groups. The manoeuvres had no effect upon the afferent spindle discharges as long as there were no EMG signs of unintentional contractions occurring in the receptor-bearing muscle and no mechanotransducer signs of unintentional positional changes altering the load on that muscle. Unintentional contractions in the receptor-bearing muscle frequently occurred during the manoeuvres, however, and then coactivation of the spindle afferents was observed. Multiunit afferent responses to Achilles tendon taps, led off from tibial nerve fascicles, were in a similar way uninfluenced by the Jendrassik manoeuvres, even when these resulted in marked reinforcement of the calf muscle tendon jerk. The results provide no evidence for fusimotor sensitization of spindles in muscles remaining relaxed during the Jendrassik manoeuvre, and reflex reinforcement occurring without concomitant signs of active tension rise in the muscles tested is presumed to depend upon altered processing of the afferent volleys within the cord.
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