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J Comp Neurol. 2004 Jul 5;474(4):546-61.

Lumbar commissural interneurons with reticulospinal inputs in the cat: morphology and discharge patterns during fictive locomotion.

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Department of Biological Control System, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Okazaki 444-8585, Japan.


The purpose of this study was 1). to characterize the morphology of lumbar commissural neurons (CNs) with reticulospinal inputs and 2). to quantitate their activity during locomotor rhythm generation. Intraaxonal recordings at the L4-7 level of the spinal cord were obtained in 67 neurons in the decerebrate, paralyzed cat. Fourteen of them were subsequently nearly fully visualized following their intraaxonal injection with the tracer neurobiotin. All 14 were CNs with axons projecting across the midline of the spinal cord. Their somata were located mainly in lamina VIII and additionally in laminae VII-VI. Most of the lamina VIII CNs were excited monosynaptically from reticulospinal pathways. They were judged to be interneuronal CNs if they had no, or a short, rostral projection. These CNs commonly gave off multiple axon collaterals in and around their somata's segmental level. They projected mainly to laminae VIII-VII and some additionally to lamina IX. Some laminae VIII and the laminae VII-VI CNs were excited polysynaptically from reticulospinal pathways or were not excited. They were judged to be long propriospinal or ascending tract CNs because they had only an ascending axon. Most lamina VIII CNs discharged rhythmically during fictive locomotion evoked by stimulation of the mesencephalic locomotor region, exhibiting one peak per locomotor cycle. The peak was in phase with neurographic activity of either a left or a right hindlimb extensor nerve. These results suggested that lamina VIII CNs are reciprocally connected bilaterally at each segmental level. Such an arrangement suggests their participation in the generation and coordination of reciprocal and bilateral locomotor activity.

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