The role of serotonin in reflex modulation and locomotor rhythm production in the mammalian spinal cord

Brain Res Bull. 2000 Nov 15;53(5):689-710. doi: 10.1016/s0361-9230(00)00402-0.


Over the past 40 years, much has been learned about the role of serotonin in spinal cord reflex modulation and locomotor pattern generation. This review presents an historical overview and current perspective of this literature. The primary focus is on the mammalian nervous system. However, where relevant, major insights provided by lower vertebrate models are presented. Recent studies suggest that serotonin-sensitive locomotor network components are distributed throughout the spinal cord and the supralumbar regions are of particular importance. In addition, different serotonin receptor subtypes appear to have different rostrocaudal distributions within the locomotor network. It is speculated that serotonin may influence pattern generation at the cellular level through modulation of plateau properties, an interplay with N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor actions, and afterhyperpolarization regulation. This review also summarizes the origin and maturation of bulbospinal serotonergic projections, serotonin receptor distribution in the spinal cord, the complex actions of serotonin on segmental neurons and reflex pathways, the potential role of serotonergic systems in promoting spinal cord maturation, and evidence suggesting serotonin may influence functional recovery after spinal cord injury.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Efferent Pathways / cytology
  • Efferent Pathways / metabolism
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Mammals / anatomy & histology
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Nerve Net / cytology
  • Nerve Net / metabolism*
  • Periodicity
  • Raphe Nuclei / cytology
  • Raphe Nuclei / metabolism
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism*


  • Serotonin