Soleus H-reflex modulation in cerebral palsy and its relationship with neural control complexity: a pilot study

Benjamin C. Conner, Alyssa M. Spomer, Safoura Sadegh Pour Aji Bishe, Katherine M. Steele, Zachary F. Lerner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Individuals with cerebral palsy (CP) display motor control patterns that suggest decreased supraspinal input, but it remains unknown if they are able to modulate lower-limb reflexes in response to more complex tasks, or whether global motor control patterns relate to reflex modulation capacity in this population. Eight ambulatory individuals with CP (12–18 years old) were recruited to complete a task complexity protocol, where soleus H-reflex excitability was compared between bilateral (baseline) and unilateral (complex) standing. We also investigated the relationship between each participant’s ability to modulate soleus H-reflex excitability and the complexity of their walking neural control pattern determined from muscle synergy analysis. Finally, six of the eight participants completed an exoskeleton walking protocol, where soleus H-reflexes were collected during the stance phase of walking with and without stance-phase plantar flexor resistance. Participants displayed a significant reduction in soleus H-reflex excitability (− 26 ± 25%, p = 0.04) with unilateral standing, and a strong positive relationship was observed between more refined neural control during walking and an increased ability to modulate reflex excitability (R = 0.79, p = 0.04). There was no difference in neuromuscular outcome measures with and without the ankle exoskeleton (p values all > 0.05), with variable reflex responses to walking with ankle exoskeleton resistance. These findings provide evidence that ambulatory individuals with CP retain some capacity to modulate lower-limb reflexes in response to increased task complexity, and that less refined neural control during walking appears to be related to deficits in reflex modulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2073-2084
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebral palsy
  • Exoskeleton
  • H-reflex
  • Muscle synergy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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