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J Neurophysiol. 2011 Mar;105(3):1170-8. doi: 10.1152/jn.00592.2010. Epub 2010 Dec 29.

The dynamics of somatic input processing in spinal motoneurons in vivo.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA.


Uncovering how motoneurons utilize their voltage-sensitive conductances to systematically respond to a variety of inputs is paramount to understanding synaptic integration. In this study, we examine the input dynamics and frequency-dependent characteristics of active conductances in motoneurons as viewed from the soma in the decerebrate cat. We evaluated the somatic response of the motoneuron by superimposing a voltage sinus sweep (a sine wave in which frequency increases with time, which is often referred to as a zap or chirp) at a subset of membrane holding potentials during discontinuous, single-electrode, somatic voltage-clamp. Results from both experimental and modeling data indicate that ionic conductances can respond to a wide variety of input dynamics. Notably, it appears that there is a divergence between low input conductance type S and high input conductance type FF motoneurons in their response to input frequency. Type S motoneurons generate a larger response to lower frequency input dynamics (compared with their response to higher frequencies), whereas type FF generate a larger response to higher input frequency dynamics. Functionally, these results may indicate that motoneurons on the lower end of the motor pool (i.e., recruited first) may favor steady inputs, whereas motoneurons at the higher end (i.e., recruited later) may favor input transients in producing action potentials.

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