Afferent and efferent components of joint position sense; interpretation of kinaesthetic illusion

A. G. Feldman, M. L. Latash

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The present model of joint angle perception is based on the following hypotheses: the perception and control of joint angle are closely interrelated processes; central motor commands are adequately expressed by shifts of an equilibrium point resulting from the interaction of antagonistic muscles and a load; two fundamental commands-reciprocal (r) and coactivative (c) provide for changes in activity of the antagonistic muscle pair. The dependence of joint angle on static muscle torque and r and c commands is derived (Eq. 5). The following principles of joint position sense are formulated: 1) the r component of the efferent copy plays the role of a reference point which shifts during voluntary regulation of muscle state, but remains unchanged during any passive alterations of joint position; 2) muscle afferent signals deliver not absolute but relative information (i.e. measured relatively to the central reference point). These signals turn out to be related to active muscle torque; 3) the nervous system evaluates muscle afferent signals on the basis of a scale determined by the level of coactivation of the antagonistic muscles. Kinaesthetic illusions appear to be due to disruptions in perception of afferent and/or efferent components of position sense. The present model is consistent with all the variety of kinaesthetic illusions observed experimentally. A qualitative neurophysiological schema for joint angle perception is proposed involving efferent copy and information concerning muscle torque delivered by the tendon organ, muscle spindle, and perhaps, articular receptors. It is known that the cerebellum incorporates both afferent and efferent information concerning movement. One may presume that it plays an essential role in position sense.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-214
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Cybernetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1982

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • General Computer Science


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