Perceptual responses to microstimulation of single afferents innervating joints, muscles and skin of the human hand

The Journal of Physiology
G MacefieldD Burke


1. Microneurographic techniques were used to isolate single afferent axons within cutaneous and motor fascicles of the median and ulnar nerves at the wrist in thirteen subjects. Of the sixty-five identified afferents, eleven innervated the interphalangeal and metacarpophalangeal joints, sixteen innervated muscle spindles, three innervated Golgi tendon organs and thirty-five supplied the glabrous skin of the hand. 2. Intrafascicular stimulation through the recording microelectrode, using trains of constant-voltage positive pulses (0.3-0.8 V, 0.1-0.2 ms, 1-100 Hz) or constant-current biphasic pulses (0.4-13.0 microA, 0.2 ms, 1-100 Hz), evoked specific sensations from sites associated with some afferent species but not others. 3. Microstimulation of eight of the eleven joint afferent sites (73%) evoked specific sensations. With four, subjects reported innocuous deep sensations referred to the relevant joint. With the other four, the subjects reported a sensation of joint displacement that partially reflected the responsiveness of the afferents to joint rotation. 4. Microstimulation of fourteen of the sixteen muscle spindle afferent sites (88%) generated no perceptions when the stimuli did not produce overt movement. However, subje...Continue Reading


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