An important function of the stretch reflex in the soleus muscle in the decerebrate cat preparation is to compensate for the tendency of muscle suddenly to yield during ramp increases in length. As the level of background (i.e. pre-stretch) force increases, there is a systematic change in the curvature of the force trajectory during this reflex compensation, from concave to convex with respect to increasing force. The hypothesis that this change in curvature was due to background force-dependent changes in the recruitment pattern of motor units was investigated with a combined computer simulation/ experimental technique. The simulation consisted of 20 model motor units for the soleus muscle, each based on a distributed moment muscle model. The timing of recruitment of the motor units was optimized to allow the simulation outputs to fit a set of experimental data records on the reflex response to stretch initiated at five different levels of pre-stretch force. The resulting recruitment patterns showed that a tendency for recruitment to be concentrated progressively in the early portion of the stretch as pre-stretch force increased could account for the changes in reflex force curvature. These results are consistent with the skewed distribution of intrinsic electrical thresholds of motoneurons, in which low-threshold units are much more frequent than high-threshold ones. Therefore the changes in recruitment pattern and reflex force curvature may be due primarily to the intrinsic properties of motoneurons.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Computer Science(all)