A comparison of spindle concentrations in large and small muscles acting in parallel combinations

D. Peck, D. F. Buxton, A. Nitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


A small short muscle frequently acts across a joint in parallel with a vastly larger and longer muscle; therefore it should play a minimal role in the mechanical control of that joint. This study provides evidence suggesting that the small member of such a “parallel muscle combination” (PMC) may serve an important sensory feedback role. The spindle densities of large and small members of PMCs in man and the dog were determined and compared. Epaxial PMCs controlling canine intervertebral joints were dissected and tissue samples were embedded in paraffin, sectioned transversely to the muscles' long axis and, stained with hematoxylin‐periodic acid‐Schiff (PAS). Representative tissue sections were projected on to stereological grids and the percentage volume of spindles was determined. Data existing in the literature were used to ascertain spindle densities in human PMCs controlling joints in the cervico‐occipital region and the extremities. The spindle density for each muscle in a group of PMCs controlling a particular motion was listed, and the mean spindle densities were determined for both the large and the small members of the group. Student's unpaired t test was used to determine the significance of the differences between mean spindle densities. Linear regression was calculated and the data were plotted graphically. In all PMCs examined, the spindle density of the small muscles was significantly higher than that of their large counterparts. It is therefore proposed that the small muscles of PMCs may function as “kinesiological monitors” generating important proprioceptive feedback to the central nervous system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-252
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1984

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Developmental Biology


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