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Responses of medullary reticulospinal neurones to stimulation of cutaneous limb nerves during locomotion in intact cats

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The present study was designed to determine whether the transmission of cutaneous afferent information from the limbs to the medullary reticular formation is phasically modulated during locomotion. Experiments were carried out in three chronically prepared, intact cats in which nerve cuff electrodes were placed, bilaterally, on the superficial radial and the superficial peroneal nerves. Thirty-seven reticulospinal neurones (RSNs) were identified by stimulation of their axons in the lumbar spinal cord (L2); 29 of 37 of these were recorded with the cat at rest, 28 of 37 during locomotion and 20 of 37 both at rest and during locomotion. Low-threshold stimulation of the cutaneous nerves evoked excitatory responses in the majority of RSNs both at rest and during locomotion. In the 28 of 37 RSNs recorded during locomotion, it was possible to record the evoked response to stimulation of all four limb nerves, giving a total of 184 tested cases [RSNs testedxnumber of nerves stimulatedxphase of stimulation (swing or stance)]. The responses of most RSNs to cutaneous stimulation were modulated in a phase-dependent manner during locomotion. The maximal responses in most, but not all, cases were obtained during the swing phase of the limb that was stimulated and were largely independent of the discharge pattern of the cell. We interpret this result as indicating that the efficacy of transmission of the afferent information is determined more by the excitability of the spinal relay neurones than by the level of excitability of the RSNs in the brainstem. It is suggested that the base discharge pattern of RSNs might be largely determined by their central afferent input, while peripheral afferent inputs would primarily serve to modify the RSN discharge pattern in response to perturbations.

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Drew, T., Cabana, T. & Rossignol, S. Responses of medullary reticulospinal neurones to stimulation of cutaneous limb nerves during locomotion in intact cats. Exp Brain Res 111, 153–168 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00227294

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Key words

  • Locomotion
  • Reticulospinal neurones
  • Cutaneous afferents
  • Gating
  • Postural control
  • Cat