Effects on the fusimotor-muscle spindle system induced by intramuscular injections of hypertonic saline

Johan Thunberg, Milos Ljubisavljevic, Mats Djupsjöbacka, Håkan Johansson

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Intramuscular injection of hypertonic saline (HS) is a procedure widely adopted to experimentally induce deep muscle pain in humans. This study was undertaken to test whether intramuscular injections of HS (5%) influence the activity of primary and secondary muscle spindle afferents (MSAs) from homonymous as well as heteronymous muscles. The experiments were performed on six cats anaesthetised with α-chloralose. Usually responses of two to nine MSAs from gastrocnemius medialis (GM) and/or gastrocnemius lateralis (GL) muscles were recorded simultaneously, while HS was injected either into the receptor-bearing muscle (homonymous responses) or into a close (GM/GL) or remote synergistic muscle (posterior biceps, PB, heteronymous responses). The mean rate of discharge and the depth of modulation of the MSA responses to sinusoidal stretching of the receptor-bearing muscle were calculated. Out of the 42 afferents tested (7 from GM and 35 from GL), 38 (90%) exhibited statistically significant responses to injections of HS into homonymous and/or heteronymous muscles. With injections into the homonymous muscle, the average maximal increase in mean rate of discharge was 74% and the average decrease in depth of modulation was -18%. The mean duration of the effects was 2.1 min. The corresponding values for heteronymous injections into a close synergist were 87%, -17% and 2.1 min (GM or GL), and for injections into PB 52%, -11%, and 1.8 min. The majority of the responses (72%) were compatible with reflex action on static fusimotor neurones, whereas 20% of the responses could be attributed to mixed static and dynamic fusimotor action. The remaining 8% of the responses were attributed to inhibition of fusimotor activity. There were no statistically significant differences between the responses following injections into homonymous or heteronymous muscles. Injections of Tyrode's solution did not induce any significant alterations in MSA responses, implying that they were not induced by direct and/or injury effects of the injections. HS-related changes in MSA activity were completely abolished after the nerves to corresponding muscles were cut, confirming the reflex nature of the effects. Thus, intramuscular injections of HS induce reflex changes in MSA activity from both homonymous and heteronymous muscles, most likely via fusimotor reflexes. Predominantly static fusimotor neurones were activated. The possible role of the fusimotor-muscle spindle system in altered motor control during experimentally induced muscle pain is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-326
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Experimental muscle pain
  • Fusimotor neurone
  • Hypertonic saline
  • Muscle spindle afferent
  • Spinal reflex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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