A type Ia sensory fiber, or a primary afferent fiber is a type of afferent nerve fiber. It is the sensory fiber of a stretch receptor found in muscles called the muscle spindle, which constantly monitors how fast a muscle stretch changes. (In other words, it monitors the velocity of the stretch).
For the body to keep moving properly and with finesse, the nervous system has to have a constant input of sensory data coming from areas such as the muscles and joints. In order to receive a continuous stream of sensory data, the body has developed special sensory receptors called proprioceptors. Muscle spindles are a type of proprioceptor, and they are found inside the muscle itself. They lie parallel with the contractile fibers. This gives them the ability to monitor muscle length with precision.
This change in length of the spindle is transduced (transformed into electric membrane potentials) by two types of sensory afferents, whose cell bodies are located in dorsal root ganglia located next to the spinal cord.
The two kinds of sensory fibers are different with respect to the kind of potentials they generate:
|Type Ia||primary||Respond to the rate of change in muscle length, as well to change in velocity, rapidly adapting|
|Type Ib||N/A||In Golgi tendon organ, responds to muscle tension changes|
|Type II||secondary||Provide position sense of a still muscle, fire when muscle is static |
The first of the two main groups of stretch receptors wrapping the intrafusal fibers are the Ia fiber, which are the largest and fastest fibers, and they fire when the muscle is stretching. They are characterized by their rapid adaptation, because as soon as the muscle stops changing length, the Ia stop firing and adapt to the new length. Ia fibers essentially supply proprioceptive information about the rate of change of its respective muscle: the derivative of the muscle's length (or position).
Type Ia fibers connect to both nuclear bag fibers and nuclear chain fibers. These connections are also called "annulospiral endings", deriving from the Latin word annulus which means "a ring-shaped area or structure".
Ia afferents from the muscle spindle terminate on the proximal dendrites of motor neurons.
Beta motor neurons (β motor neurons), also called beta motoneurons, are a kind of lower motor neuron, along with alpha motor neurons and gamma motor neurons. Beta motor neurons innervate intrafusal fibers of muscle spindles with collaterals to extrafusal fibers - a type of slow twitch fiber. Also, axons of alpha, beta, and gamma motor neurons become myelinated. Moreover, these efferent neurons originate from the anterior grey column of the spinal cord and travel to skeletal muscles. However, the larger diameter alpha motor fibers require higher conduction velocity than beta and gamma.Extrafusal muscle fiber
Extrafusal muscle fibers are the skeletal standard muscle fibers that are innervated by alpha motor neurons and generate tension by contracting, thereby allowing for skeletal movement. They make up the large mass of skeletal muscle tissue and are attached to bone by fibrous tissue extensions (tendons).
Each alpha motor neuron and the extrafusal muscle fibers innervated by it make up a motor unit. The connection between the alpha motor neuron and the extrafusal muscle fiber is a neuromuscular junction, where the neuron's signal, the action potential, is transduced to the muscle fiber by the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Extrafusal muscle fibers are not to be confused with intrafusal muscle fibers, which are innervated by sensory nerve endings in central noncontractile parts and by gamma motor neurons in contractile ends and thus serve as a sensory proprioceptor.
Extrafusal muscle fibers can be generated in vitro (in a dish) from pluripotent stem cells through directed differentiation. This allows study of their formation and physiology.Gamma motor neuron
A gamma motor neuron (γ motor neuron), also called gamma motoneuron, is a type of lower motor neuron that takes part in the process of muscle contraction, and represents about 30% of ( Aγ ) fibers going to the muscle. Like alpha motor neurons, their cell bodies are located in the anterior grey column of the spinal cord. They receive input from the reticular formation of the pons in the brainstem. Their axons are smaller than those of the alpha motor neurons, with a diameter of only 5 μm. Unlike the alpha motor neurons, gamma motor neurons do not directly adjust the lengthening or shortening of muscles. However, their role is important in keeping muscle spindles taut, thereby allowing the continued firing of alpha neurons, leading to muscle contraction. These neurons also play a role in adjusting the sensitivity of muscle spindles.The presence of myelination in gamma motor neurons allows a conduction velocity of 4 to 24 meters per second, significantly faster than with non-myelinated axons but slower than in alpha motor neurons.Intrafusal muscle fiber
Intrafusal muscle fibers are skeletal muscle fibers that serve as specialized sensory organs (proprioceptors) that detect the amount and rate of change in length of a muscle. They constitute the muscle spindle and are innervated by two axons, one sensory and one motor. Intrafusal muscle fibers are walled off from the rest of the muscle by a collagen sheath. This sheath has a spindle or "fusiform" shape, hence the name "intrafusal".
There are two types of intrafusal muscle fibers: nuclear bag and nuclear chain fibers. They bear two types of sensory ending, known as annulospiral and flower-spray endings. Both ends of these fibers contract but the central region only stretches and does not contract.
They are innervated by gamma motor neurons and beta motor neurons.
It is by the sensory information from these two intrafusal fiber types that an individual is able to judge the position of their muscle, and the rate at which it is changing.
Intrafusal muscle fibers are not to be confused with extrafusal muscle fibers, which contract, generating skeletal movement and are innervated by alpha motor neurons.Muscle spindle
Muscle spindles are stretch receptors within the body of a muscle that primarily detect changes in the length of the muscle. They convey length information to the central nervous system via afferent nerve fibers. This information can be processed by the brain as proprioception. The responses of muscle spindles to changes in length also play an important role in regulating the contraction of muscles, by activating motor neurons via the stretch reflex to resist muscle stretch.
The muscle spindle has both sensory and motor components.
Sensory information conveyed by primary type Ia sensory fibers and secondary type II sensory fibers, which spiral around muscle fibres within the spindle
Motor action by up to a dozen gamma motor neurons and to a lesser extent by one or two beta motor neurons that activate muscle fibres within the spindle.