The intermediate laminae of the lumbosacral spinal cord are suggested to contain a small number of specialized neuronal circuits that form the basic elements of movement construction ("movement primitives"). Our aim was to study the properties and state dependence of these hypothesized circuits in comparison with movements elicited by direct nerve or muscle stimulation. Microwires for intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS) were implanted in intermediate laminae throughout the lumbosacral enlargement. Movement vectors evoked by ISMS were compared with those evoked by stimulation through muscle and nerve electrodes in cats that were anesthetized, then decerebrated, and finally spinalized. Similar movements could be evoked under anesthesia by ISMS and nerve and muscle stimulation, and these covered the full work space of the limb. ISMS-evoked movements were associated with the actions of nearby motoneuron pools. However, after decerebration and spinalization, ISMS-evoked movements were dominated by flexion, with few extensor movements. This indicates that the outputs of neuronal networks in the intermediate laminae depend significantly on descending input and on the state of the spinal cord. Frequently, the outputs also depended on stimulus intensity. These experiments suggest that interneuronal circuits in the intermediate and ventral regions of the spinal cord overlap and their function may be to process reflex and descending activity in a flexible manner for the activation of nearby motoneuron pools.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physiology (medical)