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Stretch reflexes in the upper limb of spastic man
  1. Peter Ashby1,
  2. David Burke2
  1. Division of Neurology, The Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney, Australia
  2. The School of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia


    The reflex response to stretch has been studied in the upper limb of 20 spastic patients. The amplitude of reflex EMG was found to be closely related to the velocity of stretch. Reflex EMG in biceps and triceps muscles was augmented by increasing the length of the muscle, although minimal inhibition of reflex EMG in biceps was obtained in two patients by extreme stretch. The clasp-knife sensation in the upper limb cannot be related to autogenic inhibition but may be explained by the characteristics of a velocity-dependent reflex in which limb movement is braked by the mechanical effect of increasing muscle tension. It is suggested that this be called the pseudo-clasp-knife reaction to distinguish it from the clasp-knife phenomenon of the quadriceps muscle, since the underlying neurophysiological mechanism is quite different.

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    • 1 Fellow of the Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto, Canada.

    • 2 Commonwealth Postgraduate Scholar and Adolph Basser Research Fellow in Neurology.