Quantifying the deep tendon reflex using varying tendon indentation depths: Applications to spasticity

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14 Scopus citations


The deep tendon reflex (DTR) is often utilized to characterize the neuromuscular health of individuals because it is cheap, quick to implement, and requires limited equipment. However, DTR assessment is unreliable and assessor-dependent improve the reliability of the DTR assessment, we devised a novel standardization procedure. Our approach is based on the hypothesis that the neuromuscular state of a muscle changes systematically with respect to the indentation depth of its tendon. We tested the hypothesis by progressively indenting the biceps tendons on each side of nine hemiplegic stroke survivors to different depths, and then superimposing a series of brief controlled taps at each indentation depth to elicit a reflex response. Our results show that there exists a unique indentation depth at which reflex responses are consistently recorded (termed the Reflex Threshold) with increasing amplitude along increasing indentation depth. We further show that the reflex threshold depth is systematically smaller on the affected side of stroke survivors and that it is negatively correlated with the Modified Ashworth Score (VAF 70%). Our procedure also enables measurement of passive mechanical properties at the indentation location. In conclusion, our study shows that controlling for the indentation depth of the tendon of a muscle alters its reflex response predictably. Our novel device and method could be used to estimate neuromuscular changes in muscle (e.g., spasticity). Although some refinement is needed, this method opens the door to more reliable quantification of the DTR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6710177
Pages (from-to)280-289
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Deep tendon reflex
  • reflex threshold
  • skeletal muscle mechanical properties
  • spasticity
  • stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Internal Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering


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