Post-activation depression of Soleus stretch reflexes in healthy and spastic humans

Michael J Grey, Klaus Klinge, Clarissa Crone, Jakob Lorentzen, Fin Biering-Sørensen, Mads Ravnborg, Jens B Nielsen

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108 Citations (Scopus)


Reduced depression of transmitter release from Ia afferents following previous activation (post-activation depression) has been suggested to be involved in the pathophysiology of spasticity. However, the effect of this mechanism on the myotatic reflex and its possible contribution to increased reflex excitability in spastic participants has not been tested. To investigate these effects, we examined post-activation depression in Soleus H-reflex responses and in mechanically evoked Soleus stretch reflex responses. Stretch reflex responses were evoked with consecutive dorsiflexion perturbations delivered at different intervals. The magnitude of the stretch reflex and ankle torque response was assessed as a function of the time between perturbations. Soleus stretch reflexes were evoked with constant velocity (175 degrees /s) and amplitude (6 degrees) plantar flexion perturbations. Soleus H-reflexes were evoked by electrical stimulation of the tibial nerve in the popliteal fossa. The stretch reflex and H-reflex responses of 30 spastic participants (with multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury) were compared with those of 15 healthy participants. In the healthy participants, the magnitude of the soleus stretch reflex and H-reflex decreased as the interval between the stimulus/perturbation was decreased. Similarly, the stretch-evoked torque decreased. In the spastic participants, the post-activation depression of both reflexes and the stretch-evoked torque was significantly smaller than in healthy participants. These findings demonstrate that post-activation depression is an important factor in the evaluation of stretch reflex excitability and muscle stiffness in spasticity, and they strengthen the hypothesis that reduced post-activation depression plays a role in the pathophysiology of spasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-197
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


  • Stretch reflex
  • Hoffman reflex
  • Post-activation depression
  • Spasticity

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