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Prog Brain Res. 2010;187:81-95. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53613-6.00006-X.

Spinal interneurons providing input to the final common path during locomotion.

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1
Department of Surgery (Neurosurgery), Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Abstract

As the nexus between the nervous system and the skeletomuscular system, motoneurons effect all behavior. As such, motoneuron activity must be well regulated so as to generate appropriately timed and graded muscular contractions. Accordingly, motoneurons receive a large number of both excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs from various peripheral and central sources. Many of these synaptic contacts arise from spinal interneurons, some of which belong to spinal networks responsible for the generation of locomotor activity. Although the complete definition of these networks remains elusive, it is known that the neural machinery necessary to generate the basic rhythm and pattern of locomotion is contained within the spinal cord. One approach to gaining insights into spinal locomotor networks is to describe those spinal interneurons that directly control the activity of motoneurons, so-called last-order interneurons. In this chapter, we briefly survey the different populations of last-order interneurons that have been identified using anatomical, physiological, and genetic methodologies. We discuss the possible roles of these identified last-order interneurons in generating locomotor activity, and in the process, identify particular criteria that may be useful in identifying putative last-order interneurons belonging to spinal locomotor networks.

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