Systematic shifts in the balance of excitation and inhibition coordinate the activity of axial motor pools at different speeds of locomotion

Sandeep Kishore, Martha W. Bagnall, David L. McLean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


An emerging consensus from studies of axial and limb networks is that different premotor populations are required for different speeds of locomotion. An important but unresolved issue is why this occurs. Here, we perform voltage-clamp recordings from axial motoneu-rons in larval zebra fish during “fictive” swimming to test the idea that systematic differences in the biophysical properties of axial motoneurons are associated with differential tuning in the weight and timing of synaptic drive, which would help explain premotor population shifts. We find that increases in swimming speed are accompanied by increases in excitation preferentially to lower input resistance (Rin) motoneurons, whereas inhibition uniformly increases with speed to all motoneurons regardless of Rin. Additionally, while the timing of rhythmic excitatory drive sharpens within the pool as speed increases, there are shifts in the dominant source of inhibition related to Rin. At slow speeds, anti-phase inhibition is larger throughout the pool.However,as swimming speedsup, inhibition arriving in-phase with local motor activity increases, particularly in higher Rin motoneurons. Thus, in addition to systematic differences in the weight and timing of excitation related to Rin and speed, there are also speed-dependent shifts in the balance of different sources of inhibition, which is most obvious in more excitable motor pools. We conclude that synaptic drive is differentially tuned to the biophysical properties of motoneurons and argue that differences in premotor circuits exist to simplify the coordination of activity within spinal motor pools during changes in locomotor speed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14046-14054
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 15 2014


  • Excitation
  • Inhibition
  • Locomotion
  • Motoneurons
  • Recruitment
  • Spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Systematic shifts in the balance of excitation and inhibition coordinate the activity of axial motor pools at different speeds of locomotion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this