Proprioceptive Sensory Feedback


Proprioceptors are sensors that provide information about orientation of the body relative to the body's orientation with respect to gravity, movement of the body relative to the external medium and movements and forces in localised regions of the body. Muscle spindles are primarily responsible for position and movement sense, Golgi tendon organs provide the sense of force and the vestibular system provides the sense of balance. Feedback from proprioceptors feedback is essential for the accurate execution of movement execution. For voluntary limb movements in primates, proprioceptive feedback can regulate the generation of motor command by correcting errors using negative feedback loops; providing timing cues about an ongoing movement to initiate commands required at a later time within a movement sequence; and by providing signals used in the planning of movements by providing information about starting limb position to set parameters of feedforward commands. Proprioceptive feedback is also required to modify motor commands slowly in response to alterations in the biomechanical properties of the limbs.

Key Concepts:

  • Proprioception is a peripherally derived kinaesthetic sense.

  • Position and movement sense is provided by muscle spindles.

  • Muscle tension is sensed by Golgi tendon organs.

  • The centrally derived sense of effort gives information about force and heaviness of objects.

  • Proprioceptors project to the motor cortex via the dorsal columns and to the cerebellum via spinocerebellar tracts.

  • Proprioceptive information is used in the spinal regulation of rhythmic movements.

Keywords: proprioceptors; muscle receptors; motor control; motor programme; reflexes; voluntary movement; walking; locust flight

Figure 1.

Feedback from muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs controls stepping of the hind leg of the cat. (a) Simplified drawings of mammalian muscle spindles and (b) their firing properties in response to various stimuli. (c) Simplified drawings of a Golgi tendon organ and (d) its firing properties. (e) An intracellular recording from an ankle extensor motoneuron demonstrating the reflex reversal of group Ib afferents. At rest, 200 Hz stimulation of group Ib afferents inhibits medial gastrocnemius muscle activity. During locomotion, the same stimulation enhances medial gastrocnemius muscle activity. See text for details. Panels (a) and (b) are modified from Matthews with permission from the American Physiological Society. Panel (c) Modified with permission from Jami . Panel (e) Modified with permission from Pearson et al. .

Figure 2.

Proprioceptive feedback controls the timing of motor activity in the flight system of the locust. (a) Removal of wing proprioceptors (deafferented) reduces wingbeat frequency and shortens the period of flight in response to a constant wind stimulus. The two sets of data (intact and deafferented) are from the same animal. Wingbeat frequency was determined from electrical recordings of muscle activity, whereas the animal flew in a wind stream (inset) (from Pearson and Ramirez ). (b) Schematic diagram showing the organisation of feedback pathways from tegulae and stretch receptors that control wingbeat frequency. Phasic signals from the tegulae (activated by wing depression) initiates activity in elevator (Elev.) motor neurons via (EINs in shaded box) in the central rhythm generator and via interneurons (int.) that are not elements of the central rhythm generator. Feedback from the stretch receptors (activated by wing elevation) is timed to antagonise the hyperpolarisation in (DINs in shaded box) in the central rhythm generator that excite depressor (Dep.) motor neurons. This action is delayed (D) to occur on the cycle following the wing elevation that activates the stretch receptors. Adapted from Pearson and Ramirez .

Figure 3.

Schematic diagram showing the organisation of feedback pathways from muscle spindles (group Ia and II afferents) and Golgi tendon organs (group Ib afferents) that control the timing and magnitude of activity in extensor (Ext.) and flexor (Flex.) motor neurons during stepping. The central rhythm generator (shaded box) is assumed to consist of mutual inhibiting extensor (E) and flexor (F) half‐centres. See text for details.



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Further Reading

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Grey, MJ(Oct 2010) Proprioceptive Sensory Feedback. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000071.pub2]