Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Summary We examined modulation of transmission in short-latency, distal hindlimb cutaneous reflex pathways during fictive locomotion in 19 decerebrate cats. Fictive stepping was produced either by electrical stimulation of the mesencephalic locomotor region (MLR) or by administration of Nialamide and 1-DOPA to acutely spinalized animals. Postsynaptic potentials (PSPs) produced by electrical stimulation of low threshold afferents (〈 2.5 times threshold) in the superficial peroneal (SP), sural, saphenous or medial plantar nerves were recorded intracellularly from various extensor (n = 28) and flexor (n = 24) motoneurons and averaged throughout the step cycle, together with voltage responses to intrasomatic constant current pulses (in order to monitor relative cell input resistance). Each motoneuron studied displayed rhythmic background oscillations in membrane potential and correlated variations in input resistance. The average input resistance of extensor motoneurons was lowest during mid-flexion, when the cells were relatively hyperpolarized and silent. Conversely, average input resistance of flexor motoneurons was highest during mid-flexion, when they were depolarized and active. The amplitude of the minimum-latency excitatory components of PSPs produced by cutaneous nerve stimulation were measured from computer averaged records representing six subdivisions of the fictive step cycle. Oligosynaptic EPSP components were consistently modulated only in the superficial peroneal responses in flexor motoneurons, which exhibited enhanced amplitude during the flexion phase. With the other skin nerves tested (sural, saphenous, and plantar), no consistent patterns of modulation were observed during fictive locomotion. We conclude that transmission through some, but not all, oligosynaptic excitatory cutaneous pathways is enhanced by premotoneuronal mechanisms during the flexion phase of fictive stepping in several cat hindlimb motor nuclei. The present results suggest that the patterns of interaction between the locomotor central pattern generator and excitatory cutaneous reflex pathways depend on the source of afferent input and on the identity of the target motoneuron population.
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