1. The sensory responsiveness of cells in the inferior olive is known to be supppressed during certain phases of active movement. These experiments were designed to test the possibility that activity in the rubrospinal pathway contributes to this suppression. We recorded from cells sensitive to light touch located in one of the divisions of the inferior olive, the rostral dorsal acessory olive (rDAO), in cats anesthetized with pentobarbitol sodium. Responsiveness to peripheral stimuli was tested during and after trains of conditioning stimuli delivered to the rubrospinal pathway. 2. All 44 cells in our sample of rDAO neurons showed an inhibition of responsiveness to peripheral stimuli after conditioning stimulation of the rubrospinal pathway. Typical conditioning trains consisted of 0.2-ms pulses at 200 Hz for 100 ms. The mean current required for a reduction in firing probability to 0.5 was 31 μA. Slight increases in intensity often completely inhibited responses to peripheral stimuli. 3. Inhibition of responsiveness showed a delayed time course. Peak inhibition occurred ~ 50 ms after the last pulse in the conditioning train. In many cases there was no demonstrable inhibition during the conditioning train. Increases of train frequency, train duration, or stimulus intensity produced stronger and broader periods of olivary inhibition. 4. The lowest threshold points for eliciting rDAO inhibition coincided with either the magnocellular red nucleus (RNm) or the rubrospinal tract (RST). Stimulation at RST sites produced inhibition of responses in the contralateral but not in the ipsilateral rDAO. Transection of the RST in the upper brain stem blocked the inhibition produced by red-nucleus stimulation without altering the inhibition produced by tract stimulation caudal to the transection. THe inhibitory effects thus appear to be caused by activation of the rubrospinal pathway. 5. The inhibitory timing observed in this study may be appropriate for explaining the suppression of olivary responsiveness to contact that has been observed in awake animals. Bursts of movement-related, red nucleus discharge often cease ~ 50 ms before the end of movement. This timing would allow peak inhibition to develop at approximately the time of contact with an object at the end of a goal-directed limb movement.
ASJC Scopus subject areas