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The Golgi organ, also called Golgi tendon organ, neurotendinous organ or neurotendinous spindle, is a proprioceptive sensory receptor organ that is located at the insertion of skeletal muscle fibres into the tendons of skeletal muscle. Not to be confused with the Golgi Apparatus.
The body of the organ is made up of strands of collagen that are connected at one end to the muscle fibres and at the other merge into the tendon proper. Each tendon organ is innervated by a single type Ib sensory afferent axon that branches and terminates as spiral endings around the collagen strands. The Ib afferent axon is a large diameter, myelinated axon. Each neurotendinous spindle is enclosed in a fibrous capsule which contains a number of enlarged tendon fasciculi (intrafusal fasciculi). One or more nerve fibres perforate the side of the capsule and lose their medullary sheaths; the axis-cylinders subdivide and end between the tendon fibers in irregular disks or varicosities (see figure).
During muscle contraction the strands of collagen are stretched as the muscle shortens. This stretching deforms the terminals of the Ib afferent axon, opening stretch-sensitive cation channels. As a result, the axon is depolarized and fires nerve impulses up to the central nervous system via the spinal cord. The action potential frequency signals the force being developed within the muscle.
This sensory feedback plays an important role in spinal reflexes and in the central control of muscle contraction. Specifically, it is postulated that because a Golgi tendon organ exists in serial connection with muscle fibers, it can measure the tension that each muscle contraction builds up. The Ib afferent axon synapses with interneurons within the spinal cord and also relays information to the brain. One of the main spinal reflexes receiving an input from the Ib afferent is the autogenic inhibition reflex, which is involved with the regulation of the force profile of on-going muscle contractions.
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