The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect and the circuit from the branch of tibial (plantar) nerve to soleus muscle and its modulation during walking in humans. Stimulation of the plantar nerve produced short latency inhibition of soleus EMG activity and the H-reflex in humans. The threshold of afferent fibers was lower than that of motor fibers. This inhibition did not converge to disynaptic reciprocal Ia inhibition nor did inhibition from the cutaneous nerve of the big toe, but to Ib inhibition from the medial gastrocnemius nerve. The inhibitory pathway from the plantar nerve therefore is considered to include Ib inhibitory interneurones. Modulation of the inhibition was investigated during walking. Less EMG depression after plantar nerve stimulation occurred in the stance phase of walking than for tonic or dynamic plantar flexion at similar background EMG activity level. The inhibition of the soleus H-reflex after plantar nerve stimulation was also decreased during the stance phase. For investigating the influence of load on the inhibition from the plantar nerve, more EMG depression occurred in the stance phase with body unloading. Similar findings were observed in Ib inhibition from the medial gastrocnemius nerve, but not in disynaptic reciprocal Ia inhibition to soleus muscle. It is concluded that transmission of inhibition from the plantar nerve to soleus muscle is modulated during walking. It would minimize this inhibition during the stance phase of walking and might enhance soleus muscle activity via this reflex pathway for the support of weight.
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