Gain control mechanisms in spinal motoneurons

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Motoneurons provide the only conduit for motor commands to reach muscles. For many years, motoneurons were in fact considered to be little more than passive "wires". Systematic studies in the past 25 years however have clearly demonstrated that the intrinsic electrical properties of motoneurons are under strong neuromodulatory control via multiple sources. The discovery of potent neuromodulation from the brainstem and its ability to change the gain of motoneurons shows that the "passive" view of the motor output stage is no longer tenable. A mechanism for gain control at the motor output stage makes good functional sense considering our capability of generating an enormous range of forces, from very delicate (e.g., putting in a contact lens) to highly forceful (emergency reactions). Just as sensory systems need gain control to deal with a wide dynamic range of inputs, so to might motor output need gain control to deal with the wide dynamic range of the normal movement repertoire. Two problems emerge from the potential use of the brainstem monoaminergic projection to motoneurons for gain control. First, the projection is highly diffuse anatomically, so that independent control of the gains of different motor pools is not feasible. In fact, the system is so diffuse that gain for all the motor pools in a limb likely increases in concert. Second, if there is a system that increases gain, probably a system to reduce gain is also needed. In this review, we summarize recent studies that show local inhibitory circuits within the spinal cord, especially reciprocal and recurrent inhibition, have the potential to solve both of these problems as well as constitute another source of gain modulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number81
JournalFrontiers in Neural Circuits
Volume8
Issue numberJULY
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 28 2014

Keywords

  • Gain
  • Motoneuron
  • Serotonin
  • Spinal cord
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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