In theory, there are at least two distinct mechanisms by which afferent inputs could alter motoneuron discharge and shape the output of a motoneuron pool: either by delivering synaptic current to the motoneurons' somata ('classic' synaptic transduction); or by altering the motoneurons' voltage-sensitive conductances (neuromodulation). Recent work has confirmed the operation of both of these mechanisms. It has been shown that the effect of a 'classic' synaptic input on motoneuron firing rate is predicted by the product of the effective synaptic current and the slope of the motoneuron's frequency-current relation. It has also been shown that neuromodulators can alter both the slope of a motoneuron's frequency-current relation and its threshold for repetitive firing. It is argued here, however, that when two or more sources of synaptic input are activated concurrently, the distinction between these two mechanisms is blurred. Computer simulations of motoneuron and motor pool behavior have proved extremely useful in understanding these processes.
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