Effects of red nucleus microstimulation on the locomotor pattern and timing in the intact cat: a comparison with the motor cortex

J Neurophysiol. 1999 May;81(5):2297-315. doi: 10.1152/jn.1999.81.5.2297.


Effects of red nucleus microstimulation on the locomotor pattern and timing in the intact cat: a comparison with the motor cortex. To determine the extent to which the rubrospinal tract is capable of modifying locomotion in the intact cat, we applied microstimulation (cathodal current, 330 Hz; pulse duration 0.2 ms; maximal current, 25 microA) to the red nucleus during locomotion. The stimuli were applied either as short trains (33 ms) of impulses to determine the capacity of the rubrospinal tract to modify the level of electromyographic (EMG) activity in different flexors and extensors at different phases of the step cycle or as long trains (200 ms) of pulses to determine the effect of the red nucleus on cycle timing. Stimuli were also applied with the cat at rest (33-ms train). This latter stimulation evoked short-latency (average = 11.8-19.0 ms) facilitatory responses in all of the physiological flexor muscles of the forelimb that were recorded; facilitatory responses were also common in the elbow extensor, lateral head of triceps but were rare in the physiological wrist and digit extensor, palmaris longus. Responses were still evoked in most muscles when the current was decreased to near threshold (3-10 microA). Stimulation during locomotion with the short trains of stimuli evoked shorter-latency (average = 6.0-12.5 ms) facilitatory responses in flexor muscles during the swing phase of locomotion and, except in the case of the extensor digitorum communis, evoked substantially smaller responses in stance. The same stimuli also evoked facilitatory responses in the extensor muscles during swing and produced more complex effects involving both facilitation and suppression in stance. Increasing the duration of the train to 200 ms modified the amplitude and duration of the EMG activity of both flexors and extensors but had little significant effect on the cycle duration. In contrast, whereas stimulation of the motor cortex with short trains of stimuli during locomotion had very similar effects to that of the red nucleus, increasing the train duration to 200 ms frequently produced a marked reset of the step cycle by curtailing stance and initiating a new period of swing. The results suggest that whereas both the motor cortex and the red nucleus have access to the interneuronal circuits responsible for controlling the structure of the EMG activity in the step cycle, only the motor cortex has access to the circuits responsible for controlling cycle timing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Electromyography
  • Extremities
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Red Nucleus / physiology*
  • Rest
  • Time Factors