What is the role of muscle receptors in proprioception?



The role of muscle afferents is discussed in terms of their contribution to kinesthesia, the senses of position and movement of the limbs. It is argued that muscle spindles are not well suited as position sensors, on several grounds. Yet we know from muscle vibration experiments that they do contribute to kinesthesia. A number of recent experiments have shown that positional information is of particular significance to the central nervous system. In other experiments it has been demonstrated that a disturbance to kinesthesia follows fatigue from exercise. Fatigue of elbow flexor muscles led subjects to make significant positional errors in a forearm matching task. The size of the errors correlated with the fall in force from fatigue. These data suggest that we derive a positional cue from the effort required to hold a limb against the force of gravity. A challenge for the future will be to reveal how the centrally derived sense of effort and peripherally derived afferent information interact to give us our kinesthetic sense. Muscle Nerve, 2005