The input-output properties of interneurons mediating spinal reflexes were investigated by extracellularly recording the response of interneurons to excitation from muscle receptors in the ankle extensor muscles of decerebrated, spinal cats. A population of interneurons in the intermediate region of the spinal cord is potently excited by increases in muscle force. Unlike the discharge of Golgi tendon organs, which accurately encodes moment-to-moment variations in the force of a single muscle, the discharge of these interneurons depends in a dynamic and usually nonlinear way on the force in several muscles. Powerful input from unidentified mechanoreceptors in muscle, presumably free nerve endings, is at least partly responsible for these properties. These force-sensitive interneurons are more likely to mediate clasp knife-type inhibition than simple negative force feedback.
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