Characterizations of reflex and nonreflex changes in spastic multiple sclerosis

Li Qun Zhang*, Kai Chen, Sang Hoon Kang, James A. Sliwa, Bruce A. Cohen, W. Z. Rymer, Liang Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Spasticity, an increased resistance of a limb to movement, is associated with functional limitations and a major source of disability in neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis (MS) and stroke. Despite the clinical significance of spasticity in brain and spinal cord injuries, it is often not clear whether the spasticity is due to reflex or non-reflex changes. New method: Reflex and nonreflex properties of the human knee joint were studied in eight MS patients with spasticity and ten healthy subjects. A digitally controlled joint driving device was used to apply small-amplitude, and band-limited white-noise perturbations to the knee to manifest the reflex and nonreflex properties. The subjects were asked to maintain a steady level of background muscle torque during the perturbation. A nonlinear delay differential equation model was used to characterize the reflex and intrinsic properties of the knee in terms of phasic stretch reflex gain, tonic stretch reflex gain, joint elastic stiffness, and coefficient of viscosity. Results: It was found that joint coefficient of viscosity and tonic stretch reflex gain of the spastic MS patients were significantly lower than those of normal controls. On the other hand, spastic MS patients showed higher phasic stretch reflex gains than normal controls and a trend of increased joint stiffness. Conclusions: Simultaneous characterizations of changes in tonic and phasic reflexes and nonreflex changes in joint elastic stiffness and viscosity in neurological disorders may help us gain insight into mechanisms underlying spasticity and develop impairment-specific treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-8
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
StatePublished - Jul 15 2014


  • Knee
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Spasticity
  • Stiffness
  • Stretch reflex
  • Viscosity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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