The response to unopposed passive muscle stretch applied during sustained contraction was studied in normal man. When the subject did not resist the stretching force, the initial response was a brief cessation of EMG activity in the elongated muscle. The myoelectric silence was observed repeatedly in muscles of the upper and lower limbs. The response to passive stretch is discussed in relation to the lengthening reaction and the inverse myotatic reflex. The silent period observed under these experimental conditions is unlikely to be caused by Renshaw inhibition, a pause in spindle afferent discharge, or activity of the group II afferent reflex pathway. Possible mechanisms include autogenetic inhibition and a stretch-evoked decrease of fusimotor activity.
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