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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2002;508:157-70.

Selectivity of the central control of sensory information in the mammalian spinal cord.

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Department of Physiology, Biophysics and Neurosciences, Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional, México DF, Mexico.


Afferent feedback from muscle proprioceptors, as well as movement-induced activation of skin receptors plays an important role in the patterning of motor activity for stepping and postural control. An important component in this control is the presynaptic GABAergic modulation of the synaptic effectiveness of muscle and cutaneous afferents, known to change in phase with the locomotor cycle, during the execution of voluntary movements, or after a peripheral nerve injury. Recent electrophysiological studies, together with ultrastructural observations, indicate that the distribution of GABAa synapses in the intraspinal arborizations of muscle spindle and tendon organ afferents is not homogeneous. Namely, that some collaterals are the targets of one, or more, GABAergic interneurones, while other collaterals of the same fibre receive no GABAergic connections. In addition, both PAD and inhibition of PAD have a local character. This allows, at least in principle, decoupling the information arising from common sensory inputs. A spatially restricted modulation of PAD could play a significant role in the adjustment of the synaptic effectiveness of Ia afferents at the onset of voluntary contractions in humans, during movement-induced stimulation of the skin, or during the compensation of motor activity following partial denervation of muscles. Changes in the synchronization of the PAD-mediating interneurones can also have a profound effect on the information transmitted by a given set of afferent fibres. Data are presented that in the anesthetized cat, variation in the spontaneous activity of a population of dorsal horn neurones in laminae III-VI, that respond to stimulation of low-threshold cutaneous afferents, produce correlated fluctuations of monosynaptic reflexes by means of pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms. It is suggested that correlated changes in the level of PAD can also play a significant role in the presynaptic adjustment of the synaptic effectiveness of the afferent fibres during specific motor tasks.

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