The influence of passive changes in upper limb position on the excitability of three myotatic arc reflexes (soleus, quadriceps, and biceps femoris) of the lower limb has been explored on 42 volunteers. The results indicate that the excitability of the three myotatic arcs can be influenced at a distance by postural modifications of the upper limb. When the ipsilateral upper limb is forwards or the contralateral backwards, a facilitation of both soleus and quadriceps tendon reflexes is observed while the biceps femoris reflexes are reduced. This pattern of facilitation and inhibition is reversed when the ipsilateral upper limb is backwards or the contralateral forwards. The facilitations as well as inhibitions of proximal myotatic arc reflexes are quantitatively more marked than that of the soleus reflex. Facilitation and inhibition are not linearly related to the angle of the arm with the trunk. Effects begin at a considerable angle, become maximal at 45 degrees, and progressively disappear for greater values. It is suggested that the distinct pattern of facilitation and inhibition which is exerted in reciprocal fashion on extensor and flexor motor nuclei might depend on the long propriospinal neurones connecting cervical and lumbar enlargements.
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