Stretch reflex gain scaling at the shoulder varies with synergistic muscle activity

Constantine P. Nicolozakes*, M. Hongchul Sohn, Emma M. Baillargeon, David B. Lipps, Eric J. Perreault

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The unique anatomy of the shoulder allows for expansive mobility but also sometimes precarious stability. It has long been suggested that stretch-sensitive reflexes contribute to maintaining joint stability through feedback control, but little is known about how stretch-sensitive reflexes are coordinated between the muscles of the shoulder. The purpose of this study was to investigate the coordination of stretch reflexes in shoulder muscles elicited by rotations of the glenohumeral joint. We hypothesized that stretch reflexes are sensitive to not only a given muscle's background activity but also the aggregate activity of all muscles crossing the shoulder based on the different groupings of muscles required to actuate the shoulder in three rotational degrees of freedom. We examined the relationship between a muscle's background activity and its reflex response in eight shoulder muscles by applying rotational perturbations while participants produced voluntary isometric torques. We found that this relationship, defined as gain scaling, differed at both short and long latencies based on the direction of voluntary torque generated by the participant. Therefore, gain scaling differed based on the aggregate of muscles that were active, not just the background activity in the muscle within which the reflex was measured. Across all muscles, the consideration of torque-dependent gain scaling improved model fits (DR2) by 0.17 ± 0.12. Modulation was most evident when volitional torques and perturbation directions were aligned along the same measurement axis, suggesting a functional role in resisting perturbations among synergists while maintaining task performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1244-1257
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • gain scaling
  • reflex coordination
  • shoulder
  • stretch reflex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • General Neuroscience


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