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Brain Research Reviews
Locomotor networks in the spinal cord are controlled by descending systems which in turn receive feedback signals from ascending systems about the state of the locomotor networks. In lamprey, the ascending system consists of spinobulbar neurons which convey spinal network signals to the two descending systems, the reticulospinal and vestibulospinal neurons. Previous studies showed that spinobulbar neurons consist of both ipsilaterally and contralaterally projecting cells distributed at all rostrocaudal levels of the spinal cord, though most numerous near the obex. The axons of spinobulbar neurons ascend in the ventrolateral spinal cord and brainstem to the caudal mesencephalon and within the dendritic arbors of reticulospinal and vestibulospinal neurons. Compared to mammals, the ascending system in lampreys is more direct, consisting of excitatory and inhibitory monosynaptic inputs from spinobulbar neurons to reticulospinal neurons. The spinobulbar neurons are rhythmically active during fictive locomotion, representing a wide range of timing relationships with nearby ventral root bursts including those in phase, out of phase, and active during burst transitions between opposite ventral roots. The spinobulbar neurons are not simply relay cells because they can have mutual synaptic interactions with their reticulospinal neuron targets and they can have synaptic outputs to other spinal neurons. Spinobulbar neurons not only receive locomotor inputs but also receive direct inputs from primary mechanosensory neurons. Due to the relative simplicity of the lamprey nervous system and motor control system, the spinobulbar neurons and their interactions with reticulospinal neurons may be advantageous for investigating the general organization of ascending systems in the vertebrate.
Buchanan, James T. and Einum, James F., "The Spinobulbar System in Lamprey" (2008). Biological Sciences Faculty Research and Publications. 202.