Mid-lumbar segments are needed for the expression of locomotion in chronic spinal cats

J Neurophysiol. 2005 May;93(5):2474-88. doi: 10.1152/jn.00909.2004. Epub 2005 Jan 12.


In acute experiments performed in decerebrated and spinalized (T13) cats, an intraspinal injection of clonidine, a noradrenergic agonist, restricted to mid-lumbar segments L3-L4, can induce hindlimb locomotion, whereas yohimbine, a noradrenergic antagonist, can block spinal locomotion, and a second spinal lesion at L4 can abolish all locomotor activity. In the present study, we investigated whether the abolition of locomotion after this second spinal lesion was due to an acute spinal shock or to the functional disconnection of the rostral and caudal lumbar segments. In seven cats, first spinalized at T13 and having recovered treadmill locomotion, a second transection was performed at lower lumbar levels. Video and electromyographic recordings were used to evaluate locomotor performance. Results show that after a second transection at L2 or rostral L3 levels, spinal locomotion was maintained; when the second lesion was performed at caudal L3 or L4, all locomotor activity was abolished even after several weeks of attempted locomotor training; vigorous fast paw shakes (FPS) were observed in all cases; and after an intraperitoneal injection of clonidine in cats with a second transection below L4, perineal stimulation induced hyperextension of the hindlimbs but no locomotion. Considering that the main motoneuron pools of the hindlimbs are caudal to L4 and are still functional after the second spinal transection, as evidenced by the presence of FPS, we conclude that the mid-lumbar spinal segments are essential for the specific expression of spinal locomotion but not necessarily for other rhythmic motor patterns.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Clonidine / pharmacology
  • Deceleration
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Exercise Test / methods
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Hindlimb / drug effects
  • Hindlimb / innervation
  • Hindlimb / physiopathology
  • Injections, Spinal
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Lumbosacral Region / physiopathology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Time Factors
  • Yohimbine / pharmacology


  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists
  • Yohimbine
  • Clonidine