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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Robert William Banks

Banks, R. W. (2006). An allometric analysis of the number of muscle spindles in mammalian skeletal muscles. Journal of Anatomy 208(6): 753-768.

Author(s) from Durham


An allometric analysis of the number of muscle spindles in relation to muscle mass in mammalian (mouse, rat, guinea pig, cat, man) skeletal muscles is presented. It is shown that the trend to increasing number as muscle mass increases follows an isometric (length) relationship between species, whereas within a species, at least for the only essentially complete sample (human), the number of spindles scales, on average, with the square root, rather than the cube root, of muscle mass. An attempt is made to reconcile these apparently discrepant relationships. Use of the widely accepted spindle density (number of spindles g-1 of muscle) as a measure of relative abundance of spindles in different muscles is shown to be grossly misleading. It is replaced with the residuals of the linear regression of ln spindle number against ln muscle mass. Significant differences in relative spindle abundance as measured by residuals were found between regional groups of muscles: the greatest abundance is in axial muscles, including those concerned with head position, whereas the least is in muscles of the shoulder girdle. No differences were found between large v. small muscles operating in parallel, or between antigravity v. non-antigravity muscles. For proximal v. distal muscles, spindles were significantly less abundant in the hand than the arm, but there was no difference between the foot and the leg.