The role of shortening reaction in mediating rigidity in Parkinson's disease

Ruiping Xia*, W. Zev Rymer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Rigidity in Parkinson's disease (PD) is defined as an increased resistance to passive movement of a joint. The plastic-type rigidity is uniform and constant throughout the entire range of motion, whereas the cogwheel-type rigidity is accompanied by tremor. Rigidity in PD has been understudied. Thus, its pathophysiological basis remains unclear. The purpose of the study is to examine neuromuscular/biomechanical properties of PD rigidity and to provide its physiological characteristics. We hypothesize that PD rigidity presents as a flattened trace of joint torque vs. angular position (torque-angle relation) of the wrist, because the forces generated by lengthening muscles are offset by activation of the antagonist, i.e. "shortening reaction" (SR). Experiments were conducted on six PD subjects medication OFF and ON. PD severity was assessed based on the unified Parkinson's disease rating scale. Each subject sat on a chair and was instructed to relax, with the wrist coupled to the device. The servomotor applied constant velocity displacement to create wrist flexion/extension. Electromyographic (EMG) responses were monitored from wrist muscles, along with position, velocity and torque. EMG magnitudes were computed over the movement period. Slopes were derived from the torque-angle trace. Results showed that SRs were routinely recorded OFF medication, but substantially reduced ON medication. Due to the interaction of SR, torque-angle relation was flatter OFF medication and became steeper ON medication. Correlation analyses showed that a strong correlation (R=0.65) existed between SR and torque-angle slope OFF medication, exclusively. We suggest that SR may play an important role in mediating the mechanical features of PD rigidity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)524-528
Number of pages5
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2004


  • Anti-Parkinsonian medicine
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Rigidity
  • Shortening reaction
  • Torque-angle relation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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