Characterization of motor units in behaving adult mice shows a wide primary range

J Neurophysiol. 2014 Aug 1;112(3):543-51. doi: 10.1152/jn.00108.2014. Epub 2014 May 7.


The mouse is essential for genetic studies of motor function in both normal and pathological states. Thus it is important to consider whether the structure of motor output from the mouse is in fact analogous to that recorded in other animals. There is a striking difference in the basic electrical properties of mouse motoneurons compared with those in rats, cats, and humans. The firing evoked by injected currents produces a unique frequency-current (F-I) function that emphasizes recruitment of motor units at their maximum force. These F-I functions, however, were measured in anesthetized preparations that lacked two key components of normal synaptic input: high levels of synaptic noise and neuromodulatory inputs. Recent studies suggest that the alterations in the F-I function due to these two components are essential for recreating firing behavior of motor units in human subjects. In this study we provide the first data on firing patterns of motor units in the awake mouse, focusing on steady output in quiet stance. The resulting firing patterns did not match the predictions from the mouse F-I behaviors but instead revealed rate modulation across a remarkably wide range (10-60 Hz). The low end of the firing range may be due to changes in the F-I relation induced by synaptic noise and neuromodulatory inputs. The high end of the range may indicate that, unlike other species, quiet standing in the mouse involves recruitment of relatively fast-twitch motor units.

Keywords: electromyographic recordings; motoneuron; motor unit recordings; mouse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Rest / physiology