The neurographic concomitants of the monosynaptic reflex, evoked either by electrical stimulation of the tibial nerve at the popliteal fossa or by percussion of the Achilles tendon, have been recorded from the sciatic nerve in the lower and middle thigh. Neurographic recordings were characterised by two travelling waves (P1 and P2), respectively increasing and decreasing in latency in the proximal direction, that showed the same chronological trend of the propagated action potentials concurrently recorded in the dorsal and ventral spinal roots at the lumbar level. At variance with P2, the speed of propagation of the P1 volley was stimulus-related, being faster on mechanical than on electrical stimulation, probably because in the latter case the latency of the fastest afferents is overestimated. The P2 volley is subserved by alpha-efferent fibres in either case as suggested, inter alia, by the strict parallelism between the P2 volley and the monosynaptic reflex under appropriate experimental conditions. Simultaneous recordings of spinal root and sciatic nerve action potentials allowed the direct assessment of afferent and efferent conduction velocities, both in the proximal (that is from the middle thigh to the spinal recording site and vice-versa) and in the distal (that is from the lower to the middle thigh recording site and vice versa) segments of the reflex arc. As expected, the speed of propagation of impulses was significantly higher in the proximal than in the distal segments, as well as in the afferent than in efferent limb of the monosynaptic pathway. The P1-P2 time interval was longer on mechanical than on electrical stimulation, probably due to the increased spinal delay of the T versus the H reflex. The present study provides a reliable method for the direct assessment of alpha-efferent as well as of Ia afferent group fibres conduction velocity, provided that in the latter case mechanical stimuli be used.
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