A numerical simulation of muscle spindle ensemble encoding during planar movement of the human arm: correlation sensitivity and parameter dependence
1. The patterns of nerve impulses in the afferent fibres from muscle spindles have been studied using the soleus muscle of the decerebrate cat. Impulses from up to five single units were recorded simultaneously on magnetic tape, while the muscle was stretched to a series of different lengths. Various statistics were later determined by computer analysis.2. After the ventral roots were cut to eliminate any motor outflow to the muscle spindles, both primary and secondary spindle endings discharged very regularly. At frequencies around 30 impulses/sec the coefficient of variation of the interspike interval distributions had a mean value of only 0.02 for the secondary endings and 0.058 for the primary endings. The values obtained for the two kinds of ending did not overlap.3. When the ventral roots were intact, the ;spontaneous' fusimotor activity considerably increased the variability of both kinds of endings. Secondary endings still discharged much more regularly than primary endings, even when the fusimotor activity increased the frequency of firing equally for the two kinds of endings. At frequencies around 30/sec the average coefficient of variation of the interval distributions was then 0.064 for the secondary endings and 0.25 for the primary endings.4. When the ventral roots were intact there was usually an inverse relation between the values of successive interspike intervals. The first serial correlation coefficient often had values down to - 0.6 for both kinds of ending. Higher order serial correlation coefficients were also computed.5. Approximate calculations, based on the variability observed when the ventral roots were intact, suggested that when the length of the muscle was constant an observer analysing a 1 sec period of discharge from a single primary ending would only be able to distinguish about six different lengths of the muscle. The corresponding figure for a secondary ending was twenty-five lengths.6. The increase in variability with fusimotor activity, and the pattern of serial correlations, were probably caused by static fusimotor fibres firing at rates below the fusion frequency of the intrafusal muscle fibres that they supply.