In the knee-jerk and other stretch reflexes, the sensory neuron that stimulates the motor neuron of a muscle also stimulates interneu-rons within the spinal cord via collateral branches. These interneu-rons inhibit the motor neurons of antagonist muscles via inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs). This dual stimulatory and inhibitory activity is called reciprocal innervation (fig. 12.29).
When a limb is flexed, for example, the antagonistic extensor muscles are passively stretched. Extension of a limb similarly stretches the antagonistic flexor muscles. If the monosynaptic stretch reflexes were not inhibited, reflex contraction of the
■ Figure 12.28 The action of the Golgi tendon organ. An increase in muscle tension stimulates the activity of sensory nerve endings in the Golgi tendon organ. This sensory input stimulates an interneuron, which in turn inhibits the activity of a motor neuron innervating that muscle. This is therefore a disynaptic reflex.
352 Chapter Twelve
352 Chapter Twelve
■ Figure 12.29 A diagram of reciprocal innervation. Afferent impulses from muscle spindles stimulates alpha motoneurons to the agonists muscle (the extensor) directly, but (via an inhibitory interneuron) they inhibit activity in the alpha motoneuron to the antagonist muscle.
antagonistic muscles would always interfere with the intended movement. Fortunately, whenever the "intended," or agonist muscles, are stimulated to contract, the alpha and gamma motoneurons that stimulate the antagonist muscles are inhibited.
The stretch reflex, with its reciprocal innervations, involves the muscles of one limb only and is controlled by only one segment of the spinal cord. More complex reflexes involve muscles controlled by numerous spinal cord segments and affect muscles on the contralateral side of the cord. Such reflexes involve double reciprocal innervation of muscles.
Double reciprocal innervation is illustrated by the crossed-extensor reflex. If you step on a tack with your right foot, for example, this foot is withdrawn by contraction of the flexors and relaxation of the extensors of your right leg. The contralateral left leg, by contrast, extends to help support your body during this withdrawal reflex. The extensors of your left leg contract while its flexors relax. These events are illustrated in figure 12.30.
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.