Integration in descending motor pathways controlling the forelimb in the cat
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A previously described disynaptic pathway from cortex to forelimb motoneurones whose intercalated neurones were excited both from other descending pathways and from forelimb afferents (Illert et al., 1976a, b) has been further analysed, mainly with respect to the location of the relay cells and their axons.
Disynaptic EPSPs evoked in forelimb motoneurones by stimulation of the pyramid remained after complete transection of the corticospinal tract in C5 rostral to the forelimb segments but were abolished after a more rostral transection of the tract in the C2 segment. Corresponding findings were made with disynaptic rubral EPSPs after transection of the rubrospinal tract in these segments. It is concluded that disynaptic cortico-motoneuronal and rubro-motoneuronal excitation is relayed by propriospinal neurones originating in the C3–C4 segments. Other lesion experiments revealed that the axons of these propriospinal neurones descend to forelimb motoneurones in the ventrolateral part of the lateral funicle.
Spatial facilitation of transmission from the corticospinal and rubrospinal tracts after transection of them in C5 occurred with a time course showing monosynaptic convergence from these pathways on common propriospinal neurones.
Facilitation of disynaptic pyramidal EPSPs from the dorsal tegmentum remained after transection of the corticospinal tract at C5 but was abolished after a transection at C2. It is postulated that corticospinal and presumed tectospinal fibres converge onto common neurones in the propriospinal relay but evidence is also given for a more rostral relay (probably bulbar) with a similar convergence.
The oligo- (probably mono-)synaptic facilitation of the disynaptic pyramidal EPSP evoked by volleys in cutaneous and group I muscle afferents from the forelimb likewise remained after a C5 transection of the corticospinal tract but was abolished after an additional C5 lesion in the dorsal column. It is concluded that propriospinal relay cells receive excitatory action from forelimb afferents ascending in the dorsal column. Spatial facilitation experiments using three tests revealed that propriospinal neurones monosynaptically excited from both corticospinal and rubrospinal fibres also receive excitation from cutaneous forelimb afferents.
It is postulated that the propriospinal relay provides an important route for fast activation of forelimb motoneurones from the brain. The convergent monosynaptic excitation from several important motor centres in the brain is considered in relation to the general problem of the functional relationship between higher motor centres. The convergent action from forelimb afferents is taken to suggest that a descending command for a forelimb movement can be modified from the forelimb while on its way to the motoneurones.
Key wordsCortico-, rubro- and tectospinal tracts Forelimb afferents Short propriospinal neurones Forelimb motoneurones
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