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Exp Brain Res. 1986;61(3):625-37.

An electrophysiological investigation of propriospinal inspiratory neurons in the upper cervical cord of the cat.


This study was performed in order to describe the location, axonal projection and possible synaptic action of the inspiratory neurons recently described in the upper cervical cord. In 26 cats anaesthetized with Nembutal, extracellular recordings were made from 224 cervical inspiratory units which were found near the lateral border of lamina VII and formed a column extending from the caudal end of the nucleus retroambigualis at the C1 segment to the rostral half of the C3 segment. Most of the units (approximately 85%) could be excited antidromically from the thoracic cord. Antidromic mapping showed collateral branches to the C5 segment in the vicinity of the phrenic nucleus, occasionally crossing the midline. No synaptic connections with phrenic motoneurones could be revealed either by cross-correlation of the activity of the cervical units with the discharge of C5 phrenic root, or by spike-triggered averaging (STA) of the post-synaptic noise recorded intracellularly from phrenic motoneurons. Extensive branching was found in the examined T3-T5 segments with arborizations near the ipsilateral intercostal motor nuclei and often extending across the midline. Cross-correlation experiments did not show clear monosynaptic connections to the inspiratory intercostal motoneurons. Intracellular recording from intercostal motoneurons and STA resulted in a few (2 out of 37) small, probably disynaptic, e.p.s.p.s. It is concluded that the upper cervical neurons are involved in the control of phrenic and intercostal motoneurons, probably through a disynaptic pathway involving segmental interneurons.

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