Much evidence suggests that parkinsonian rigidity is due to hyperactivity of a reflex arc. While tendon jerk and H reflex are not modified in Parkinson's disease (PD), the long-latency component of stretch reflex (LLR) shows an increased size in PD. It has been proposed that this modification could account for rigidity. We studied in 14 PD patients and 8 normal subjects the stretch reflex of the quadriceps femoris. The muscle was stretched by a torque motor in two experimental sets: at rest and with voluntary background activity. Latency, duration and size of the reflex were compared in two groups; correlation between size of the reflex and rigidity was investigated. A lower threshold for the reflex was found in PD patients in trials at rest, and LLR showed increased size and duration in trials with background activity. No clear relationships between these data and rigidity were demonstrated.
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