The aim of this study was to investigate the contribution of proprioceptive feedback to the amplitude modulation of the soleus muscle activity during human walking. We have previously shown that slow-velocity, small-amplitude ankle dorsiflexion enhancements and reductions applied during the stance phase of the step cycle generate, respectively, increments and decrements on the ongoing soleus activity. We have also shown that the increments in soleus activity are at least partially mediated by feedback from group Ia fibres. In the present study, we further investigated the afferent-mediated contribution from muscle group II afferents, cutaneous and proprioceptive afferents from the foot, and load-sensitive afferents to the soleus EMG. Slow-velocity, small-amplitude ankle trajectory modifications were combined with the pharmaceutical depression of group II polysynaptic pathways with tizanidine hydrochloride, anaesthetic blocking of sensory information from the foot with injections of lidocaine hydrochloride, and modulation of load feedback by increasing and decreasing the body load. The depression of the group II afferents significantly reduced the soleus response to the ankle trajectory modifications. Blocking sensory feedback from the foot did not have an effect on the soleus muscle activity. Changes in body load affected the ongoing soleus activity level; however, it did not affect the amplitude of the soleus EMG responses to the ankle trajectory modifications. These results suggest that the feedback from group II afferents, and possibly from load-sensitive afferents, contribute to the amplitude modulation of the soleus muscle activity during the stance phase of the step cycle. However, feedback from cutaneous afferents and instrinsic proprioceptive afferents from the foot does not seem to contribute to this muscle activation.
- Afferent feedback
- Human walking