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Characteristics of postsynaptic potentials produced in single human motoneurons by homonymous group 1 volleys

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Changes in the firing probability of voluntarily activated human tibialis anterior motor units occurred when the muscle nerve was stimulated below the threshold of motoneuron axons. A prominent period of increased firing probability was considered to result from the group 1 composite EPSP. The rise time of this composite EPSP, estimated from the duration of the period of increased firing probability, was between 2 and 5 ms. One estimate of the relative amplitude of the EPSP was derived from the cross-correlation and tested by inserting synthetic EPSPs into a computer simulation of a rhythmically discharging neuron. A second estimate of the amplitude was obtained by delivering stimuli with various delays within the interspike interval to determine the position (as a percentage of the mean interspike interval) at which the postsynaptic potential was capable of bringing the membrane potential to threshold. The two estimates were in reasonable agreement. The largest of these EPSPs could bring the motoneuron to threshold after 39% of the elapsed interspike interval. The falling phase of the postsynaptic potential was explored by delivering double stimuli within the interspike interval to produce temporal summation. The duration of the falling phase, so tested, was between 5 and 20 ms. An attempt was made to deduce the general form of the trajectory representing the effective distance of an EPSP from threshold during the interspike interval from the alterations in the cross-correlation profile that occurred when motoneuron firing rate was voluntarily altered.

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Correspondence to P. Ashby MD.

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Ashby, P., Zilm, D. Characteristics of postsynaptic potentials produced in single human motoneurons by homonymous group 1 volleys. Exp Brain Res 47, 41–48 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00235884

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Key words

  • Spinal cord
  • EPSP
  • Human motoneurons