Send to

Choose Destination
J Physiol. 2015 Jun 1;593(11):2403-26. doi: 10.1113/JP270121.

Organization of left-right coordination of neuronal activity in the mammalian spinal cord: Insights from computational modelling.

Author information

Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Neurobiology and Behaviour, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA.



Coordination of neuronal activity between left and right sides of the mammalian spinal cord is provided by several sets of commissural interneurons (CINs) whose axons cross the midline. Genetically identified inhibitory V0D and excitatory V0V CINs and ipsilaterally projecting excitatory V2a interneurons were shown to secure left-right alternation at different locomotor speeds. We have developed computational models of neuronal circuits in the spinal cord that include left and right rhythm-generating centres interacting bilaterally via three parallel pathways mediated by V0D , V2a-V0V and V3 neuron populations. The models reproduce the experimentally observed speed-dependent left-right coordination in normal mice and the changes in coordination seen in mutants lacking specific neuron classes. The models propose an explanation for several experimental results and provide insights into the organization of the spinal locomotor network and parallel CIN pathways involved in gait control at different locomotor speeds.


Different locomotor gaits in mammals, such as walking or galloping, are produced by coordinated activity in neuronal circuits in the spinal cord. Coordination of neuronal activity between left and right sides of the cord is provided by commissural interneurons (CINs), whose axons cross the midline. In this study, we construct and analyse two computational models of spinal locomotor circuits consisting of left and right rhythm generators interacting bilaterally via several neuronal pathways mediated by different CINs. The CIN populations incorporated in the models include the genetically identified inhibitory (V0D ) and excitatory (V0V ) subtypes of V0 CINs and excitatory V3 CINs. The model also includes the ipsilaterally projecting excitatory V2a interneurons mediating excitatory drive to the V0V CINs. The proposed network architectures and CIN connectivity allow the models to closely reproduce and suggest mechanistic explanations for several experimental observations. These phenomena include: different speed-dependent contributions of V0D and V0V CINs and V2a interneurons to left-right alternation of neural activity, switching gaits between the left-right alternating walking-like activity and the left-right synchronous hopping-like pattern in mutants lacking specific neuron classes, and speed-dependent asymmetric changes of flexor and extensor phase durations. The models provide insights into the architecture of spinal network and the organization of parallel inhibitory and excitatory CIN pathways and suggest explanations for how these pathways maintain alternating and synchronous gaits at different locomotor speeds. The models propose testable predictions about the neural organization and operation of mammalian locomotor circuits.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center