Vestibulospinal and reticulospinal neuronal activity during locomotion in the intact cat. II. Walking on an inclined plane

J Neurophysiol. 2000 Nov;84(5):2257-76. doi: 10.1152/jn.2000.84.5.2257.


The experiments described in this report were designed to determine the contribution of vestibulospinal neurons (VSNs) in Deiters' nucleus and of reticulospinal neurons (RSNs) in the medullary reticular formation to the modifications of the walking pattern that are associated with locomotion on an inclined plane. Neuronal discharge patterns were recorded from 44 VSNs and 63 RSNs in cats trained to walk on a treadmill whose orientation was varied from +20 degrees (uphill) to -10 degrees (downhill), referred to as pitch tilt, and from 20 degrees roll tilt left to 20 degrees roll tilt right. During uphill locomotion, a majority of VSNs (25/44) and rhythmically active RSNs (24/39) showed an increase in peak discharge frequency, above that observed during locomotion on a level surface. VSNs, unlike some of the RSNs, exhibited no major deviations from the overall pattern of the activity recorded during level walking. The relative increase in discharge frequency of the RSNs (on average, 31.8%) was slightly more than twice that observed in the VSNs (on average, 14.4%), although the average absolute change in discharge frequency was similar (18.2 Hz in VSNs and 21.6 Hz in RSNs). Changes in discharge frequency during roll tilt were generally more modest and were more variable, than those observed during uphill locomotion as were the relative changes in the different limb muscle electromyograms that we recorded. In general, discharge frequency in VSNs was more frequently increased when the treadmill was rolled to the right (ear down contralateral to the recording site) than when it was rolled to the left. Most VSNs that showed significant linear relationships with treadmill orientation in the roll plane increased their activity during right roll and decreased activity during left roll. Discharge activity in phasically modulated RSNs was also modified by roll tilt of the treadmill. Modulation of activity in RSNs that discharged twice in each step cycle was frequently reciprocal in that one burst of activity would increase during left roll and the other during right roll. The overall results indicate that each system contributes to the changes in postural tone that are required to adapt the gait for modification on an inclined surface. The characteristics of the discharge activity of the VSNs suggest a role primarily in the overall control of the level of electromyographic activity, while the characteristics of the RSNs suggest an additional role in determining the relative level of different muscles, particularly when the pattern is asymmetric.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Muscle Tonus / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Neurons, Efferent / cytology*
  • Neurons, Efferent / physiology
  • Reticular Formation / cytology*
  • Reticular Formation / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / cytology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology
  • Vestibular Nuclei / cytology*
  • Vestibular Nuclei / physiology
  • Walking / physiology*