Acquisition of a Simple Motor Skill: Task-Dependent Adaptation and Long-Term Changes in the Human Soleus Stretch Reflex

Publikationen: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungBegutachtung


  • Natalie Mrachacz-Kersting
  • Uwe Gustav Kersting
  • Priscila de Brito Silva
  • Yukiko Makihara
  • Lars Arendt-Nielsen
  • Thomas Sinkjaer
  • Aiko K Thompson



Changing the H reflex through operant conditioning leads to CNS multisite plasticity and can affect previously learned skills. To further understand the mechanisms of this plasticity, we operantly conditioned the initial component (M1) of the soleus stretch reflex. Unlike the H reflex, the stretch reflex is affected by fusimotor control, comprises several bursts of activity resulting from temporally dispersed afferent inputs, and may activate spinal motoneurons via several different spinal and supraspinal pathways. Neurologically normal participants completed 6 baseline sessions and 24 operant conditioning sessions in which they were encouraged to increase (M1up) or decrease (M1down) M1 size. Five of eight M1up participants significantly increased M1; the final M1 size of those five participants was 143 ± 15% (mean ± SE) of the baseline value. All eight M1down participants significantly decreased M1; their final M1 size was 62 ± 6% of baseline. Similar to the previous H-reflex conditioning studies, conditioned reflex change consisted of within-session taskdependent adaptation and across-session long-term change. Taskdependent adaptation was evident in conditioning session 1 with M1up and by session 4 with M1down. Long-term change was evident by session 10 with M1up and by session 16 with M1down. Taskdependent adaptation was greater with M1up than with the previous H-reflex upconditioning. This may reflect adaptive changes in muscle spindle sensitivity, which affects the stretch reflex but not the H reflex. Because the stretch reflex is related to motor function more directly than the H reflex, M1 conditioning may provide a valuable tool for exploring the functional impact of reflex conditioning and its potential therapeutic applications. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Since the activity of stretch reflex pathways contributes to locomotion, changing it through training may improve locomotor rehabilitation in people with CNS disorders. Here we show for the first time that people can change the size of the soleus spinal stretch reflex through operant conditioning. Conditioned stretch reflex change is the sum of task-dependent adaptation and long-term change, consistent with H-reflex conditioning yet different from it in the composition and amount of the two components.
ZeitschriftJournal of neurophysiology
Seiten (von - bis)435-446
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 07.2019

ID: 4200685


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