Segmental Distribution of Common Synaptic Inputs to Spinal Motoneurons During Fictive Swimming in the Lamprey

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Format of Original

8 p.

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American Physiological Society

Source Publication

Journal of Neurophysiology

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These experiments were designed to measure the degree of shared synaptic inputs coming to pairs of myotomal motoneurons during swimming activity in the isolated spinal cord of the lamprey. In addition, the experiments measured the decrease in the degree of shared synaptic inputs with the distance between the motoneurons to assess the segmental distribution of these shared inputs. Intracellular microelectrode recordings of membrane potential were made simultaneously on pairs of myotomal motoneurons during swimming activity induced with an excitatory amino acid. The swim cycle oscillations of motoneuron membrane potentials were removed with a digital notch filter, thus leaving the fast synaptic activities that underlie these slower oscillations. Cross-correlations of the fast synaptic activities in two simultaneously recorded motoneurons were made to measure the degree of shared inputs. The cross-correlation was done on time windows restricted to one swim cycle or to part of a swim cycle, and 50 consecutive swim cycle cross-correlograms then were averaged. The peak coefficients of the cross-correlations exhibited a wide range, even for pairs of motoneurons located near one another (range = 0.06–0.74, for pairs located within 2 segments). This observation suggests that there may be different functional classes of myotomal motoneurons with inputs originating from different sets of premotor interneurons. In spite of this variability, the mean peak correlation coefficients of motoneuron pairs clearly decreased with the distance between them. With separations of more than five segments, there was little or no clear correlation between the motoneurons (range = 0.04–0.10). These results suggest that common synaptic inputs to motoneurons during fictive swimming originate from local premotor interneurons and that beyond five spinal segments, common premotor inputs are rare or weak to motoneurons. Thus the premotor signals originating from the locomotor network have relatively short distribution lengths, on the order of 5 segments of 120 total spinal segments.


Journal of Neurophysiology, Vol. 82, No. 3 (September 1999): 1156-1163. Permalink.