Damping in reflexively active and areflexive lengthening muscle evaluated with inertial loads

David C. Lin*, W. Zev Rymer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Studies of active areflexive muscle have shown that during a constant velocity stretch the increment in force elicited by an incremental length change falls dramatically after a few hundred micrometers of stretch, a finding labeled as 'muscle yield.' The mechanical behavior after the yield was like a viscous damper, in that force varied only with velocity. In light of these observations, our aims were to determine whether viscous properties are also evident under more physiological conditions, specifically under inertial loading, and to evaluate the damping action of reflexively intact compared with that of deafferented muscle. The active soleus muscle in a decerebrate cat was forcibly stretched by a simulated inertia with a specified initial velocity. We compared muscle length changes when afferent pathways were intact with those recorded after cutting the dorsal roots. Our findings were that areflexive muscle showed highly damped responses, with large changes in mean muscle length, indicative of high viscosity relative to stiffness. In contrast, reflexively active muscle produced lightly damped oscillations, with minimal changes in mean length, reflecting low viscosity and high stiffness. It appears that the stretch reflect modifies the relative contributions of elastic and viscous-like forces, maintaining elasticity, which in turn sustains oscillations. These differences highlight tradeoffs between positional and velocity regulation, in that elastic properties of reflexively active muscle promote oscillations with modest change in mean muscle length, whereas viscous-like properties of areflexive muscle produce damped responses, with poor positional regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3369-3372
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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