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December 1968

Orderly Recruitment of Muscle Action Potentials: Motor Unit Threshold and EMG Amplitude

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Physiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston.

Arch Neurol. 1968;19(6):591-597. doi:10.1001/archneur.1968.00480060061008

RECENT studies from this laboratory1 have shown that there is a functionally significant relationship between the size of individual motor neurons and their susceptibility to discharge by physiological stimuli. The smaller the cell, the more readily it is discharged by all normal stimuli. This sizeprinciple has been demonstrated in a variety of experiments in which discharge of motor neurons has been brought about by stimulation of the motor cortex, basal ganglia, cerebellum, or brainstem,2 or by evoking stretch reflexes, flexor reflexes, or crossed reflexes.1,3

The present study was begun after recordings of muscle action potentials in stretch reflexes revealed an orderly recruitment of units of increasing amplitude, which was strikingly similar to that seen in records from ventral root filaments. There have been several reports4-7 in which it was noted that the amplitude of individual electromyographic (EMG) potentials increased with the total amount of excitation.

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