Responses to mechanical and electrical stimuli have been studied in vastus medialis in four young adults. Percussion causes an immediate, brief contraction in those muscle fibres passing beneath the site of the blow. This is accompanied by EMG activity which is propagated along the muscle fibres at a normal velocity of around 4 m/sec. The EMG activity lasts much longer than that produced by a single electrical stimulus to muscle fibres because repetitive firing occurs in some of the muscle fibres activated mechanically. This response to percussion is unaffected by nerve blockade with 2% xylocaine. Percussion close to the motor point may cause delayed fasciculation due to activation of intramuscular motor nerve fibres. This, too, is unaffected by nerve blockade. Some observations on EMG insertional activity provoked by needle movement are reported. It is concluded that muscle has a basic tendency to discharge repetitively when stimulated by mechanical means and that EMG insertional activity and the EMG response to percussion reported in this paper are both manifestations of this same tendency, which is increased in the myotonias.
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