Relative strength of synaptic input from short latency pathways to motor units of defined type in cat medial gastrocnemius

R. E. Burke, W. Z. Rymer, J. V. Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Intracellular recording and stimulation techniques were used in anesthetized cats to study the interrelations between amplitudes of PSPs produced by electrical stimulation of several short latency pathways to MG alpha motoneurons and the mechanical properties of muscle units innervated by the same cells. Motor unit types were identified by muscle unit properties. The maximum amplitudes of monosynaptic EPSPs produced in MG motoneurons by activation of homonymous (MG) and heteronymous (LGS) group Ia afferents were clearly related to motor unit type, being, on the average, largest in type S units, somewhat smaller in type FR and F(int) units, and smallest in type FF units. Correspondingly, group Ia EPSP amplitudes were inversely correlated with muscle unit tension production and directly correlated with resistance to fatigue. The same input distribution was true for disynaptic IPSPs produced by group Ia afferents from antagonist ankle flexors. The amplitudes of monosynpatic EPSPs produced by fibers descending in the ipsilateral ventral funiculi of the low thoracic cord were not clearly related to MG motor unit type or (therefore) to muscle unit properties. A quantitative input output model of the MG motor unit pool, based in part on the present results, suggests that overall characteristics of MG motor units, and their relative numbers in the MG pool, reflect functional specializations determined by specific mechanical demands placed on the MG muscle by the usual motor behavior of the animal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-458
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1976

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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