- Stretch reflex
When a muscle lengthens, the muscle spindle is stretched and its nerve activity increases. This increases alpha motor neuron activity, causing the muscle fibers to contract and thus resist the stretching. A secondary set of neurons also causes the opposing muscle to relax. The reflex functions to maintain the muscle at a constant length.
Gamma motoneurons regulate how sensitive the stretch reflex is by tightening or relaxing the fibers within the spindle. There are several theories as to what may trigger gamma motoneurons to increase the reflex's sensitivity. For example, gamma co-activation might keep the spindles taut when a muscle is contracted, preserving their stretch-sensitivity even as the muscle fibers become shorter. Otherwise the spindles would become slack and the reflex would cease to function.
This reflex has the shortest latency of all spinal reflexes including the Golgi tendon reflex and reflexes mediated by pain and cutaneous receptors.
A person standing upright begins to lean to one side. The postural muscles that are closely connected to the vertebral column on the side will stretch. Because of this, stretch receptors in those muscles contract to correct posture.
Other examples (followed by involved spinal nerves) are responses to stretch created by a blow upon a muscle tendon:
- Biceps reflex C5/C6
- Brachioradialis reflex C6
- Extensor digitorum reflex C6/C7
- Triceps reflex C7/C8
- Patellar reflex L2-L4 (knee-jerk)
- Ankle jerk reflex S1/S2
- Plantar reflex L5-S2
- Jaw jerk reflex
Another example is the group of fibers in the calf muscle, which synapse with motor neurons supplying muscle fibers in the same muscle. A sudden stretch, such as tapping the Achilles' tendon, causes a reflex contraction in the muscle as the spindles sense the stretch and send an action potential to the motor neurons which then cause the muscle to contract; this particular reflex causes a contraction in the soleus-gastrocnemius group of muscles. Like the patellar reflex, this reflex can be enhanced by the Jendrassik maneuver.
The central nervous system can influence the stretch reflex via the gamma motoneurons, which as described above control the sensitivity of the reflex.
Inhibitory signals arrive at gamma neurons through the lateral reticulospinal tract from Brodmann area 6, the paleocerebellum and the red nucleus. Facilitatory signals arrive through the ventral reticulospinal tract from Brodmann area 4, the neocerebellum and the vestibular nucleus.
- Withdrawer reflex
- Damping & Loading reflex
- Jendrassik manoeuvre
The clasp-knife response is a stretch reflex with a rapid decrease in resistance when attempting to flex a joint. It is one of the characteristic responses of an upper motor neuron lesion.
Nervous system physiology: neurophysiology - reflex Cranial nerve Stretch reflexes Primitive reflexes Lists CardiovascularBainbridge reflex · Bezold-Jarisch reflex · Coronary reflex · Mammalian diving reflex · Oculocardiac reflexReflex bradycardia · Reflex tachycardiaRespiratoryChurchill-Cope reflex Other
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