1. This study was designed to determine whether cutaneous receptors in the hand exert reflex effects on fusimotor neurones innervating relaxed muscles. Recordings were made from fifty‐four muscle spindle afferents in the radial nerve while the arm was held relaxed in a supporting frame. Cutaneous afferents were activated by trains of stimuli at non‐noxious levels to the superficial radial nerve or to the palmar surface of the fingers. 2. For the population of muscle spindle afferents, the mean discharge rate was 7.1 +/‐ 6.4 Hz (range 0‐24 Hz). Thirty‐three per cent had no background discharge, and this occurred significantly more often in finger extensors than wrist extensors. 3. Trains of cutaneous stimuli produced no change in the discharge rates of the majority of spindle endings irrespective of whether the spindle afferent had a background discharge or was given one by muscle stretch. However, with two of forty afferents, the stimuli produced an increase in discharge at latencies of 135 and 155 ms. 4. With a further fourteen muscle spindle endings, the dynamic responses to stretch were measured 100‐400 ms after the trains of cutaneous stimuli. For four spindle afferents there was a statistically significant change in the dynamic response to stretch occurring at conditioned‐stretch intervals of 100‐200 ms. For two afferents the dynamic response decreased by 17 and 26% and for two others it increased by about 24 and 37%. 5. While these results support the view that the level of background fusimotor drive is low in the relaxed state, they suggest that there is some dynamic fusimotor drive to completely relaxed muscles operating on the human hand, and that this drive can be altered reflexly by cutaneous afferent inputs from the hand.
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