, Volume 90, Issue 3, pp 441-455

On the regulation of repetitive firing in lumbar motoneurones during fictive locomotion in the cat

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Summary

Repetitive firing of motoneurones was examined in decerebrate, unanaesthetised, paralysed cats in which fictive locomotion was induced by stimulation of the mesencephalic locomotor region. Repetitive firing produced by sustained intracellular current injection was compared with repetitive firing observed during fictive locomotion in 17 motoneurones. During similar interspike intervals, the afterhyperpolarisations (AHPs) during fictive locomotion were decreased in amplitude compared to the AHPs following action potentials produced by sustained depolarising current injections. Action potentials were evoked in 10 motoneurones by the injection of short duration pulses of depolarising current throughout the step cycles. When compared to the AHPs evoked at rest, the AHPs during fictive locomotion were reduced in amplitude at similar membrane potentials. The post-spike trajectories were also compared in different phases of the step cycle. The AHPs following these spikes were reduced in amplitude particularly in the depolarised phases of the step cycles. The frequency-current (f-I) relations of 7 motoneurones were examined in the presence and absence of fictive locomotion. Primary ranges of firing were observed in all cells in the absence of fictive locomotion. In most cells (6/7), however, there was no relation between the amount of current injected and the frequency of repetitive firing during fictive locomotion. In one cell, there was a large increase in the slope of the f-I relation. It is suggested that this increase in slope resulted from a reduction in the AHP conductance; furthermore, the usual elimination of the relation is consistent with the suggestions that the repetitive firing in motoneurones during fictive locomotion is not produced by somatic depolarisation alone, and that motoneurones do not behave as simple input-output devices during this behaviour. The correlation of firing level with increasing firing frequency which has previously been demonstrated during repetitive firing produced by afferent stimulation or by somatic current injection is not present during fictive locomotion. This lends further support to the suggestion that motoneurone repetitive firing during fictive locomotion is not produced or regulated by somatic depolarisation. It is suggested that although motoneurones possess the intrinsic ability to fire repetitively in response to somatic depolarisation, the nervous system need not rely on this ability in order to produce repetitive firing during motor acts. This capability to modify or bypass specific motoneuronal properties may lend the nervous system a high degree of control over its motor output.