Noisy stimuli, along with linear systems analysis, have proven to be effective for mapping functional neural connections. We explored the use of noisy (10-115 Hz) Achilles tendon vibration to examine proprioceptive reflexes in the triceps surae muscles in standing healthy young adults (n = 8). We also examined the association between noisy vibration and electrical activity recorded over the sensorimotor cortex using electroencephalography. We applied two-minutes of vibration and recorded ongoing muscle activity of the soleus and gastrocnemii using surface electromyography (EMG). Vibration amplitude was varied to characterize reflex scaling and to examine how different stimulus levels affected postural sway. Muscle activity from the soleus and gastrocnemii were significantly correlated with the tendon vibration across a broad frequency range (~10-80 Hz), with a peak located at ~40 Hz. Vibration-EMG coherence positively scaled with stimulus amplitude in all three muscles, with soleus displaying the strongest coupling and steepest scaling. EMG responses lagged the vibration by ~38 ms, a delay that paralleled observed response latencies to tendon taps. Vibration-evoked cortical oscillations were observed at frequencies ~40-70 Hz (peak ~54 Hz) in most subjects, a finding in line with previous reports of sensory evoked γ-band oscillations. Further examination of the method revealed a) accurate reflex estimates could be obtained with <60 s of low-level (RMS=10 m/s2) vibration, b) responses did not habituate over two-minutes of exposure, and importantly c) noisy vibration had a minimal influence on standing balance. Our findings suggest noisy tendon vibration is an effective novel approach to characterize proprioceptive reflexes.
- triceps surae
- stretch reflex
- muscle spindle
- Copyright © 2016, Journal of Applied Physiology