Background: The Jendrassik maneuver (JM) is a remote facilitation muscular contraction shown to affect amplitude and temporal components of the human stretch reflex. Conflicting theoretical models exist regarding the neurological mechanism related to its ability to reinforce reflex parameters. One mechanism involves the gamma motoneurons of the fusimotor system, which are subject to both physical and mental activity. A second mechanism describes reduced alpha motoneuron presynaptic inhibition, which is not subject to mental activity. In the current study, we determined if mental activity could be used to create a reflex facilitation comparable to a remote muscle contraction.
Method: Using a within-participants design, we investigated the relative effect of the JM and a successfully employed mental task (Stroop task) on the amplitude and temporal components of the patellar tendon reflex.
Results: We found that the addition of mental activity had no influence on the patellar tendon reflex parameters measured, while the JM provided facilitation (increased reflex amplitude, decreased total reflex time).
Conclusion: The findings from this study support the view that the mechanism for the JM is a reduction in presynaptic inhibition of alpha motoneurons as it is influenced by physical and not mental activity.
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