The lateral part of the mesopontine tegmentum contains functionally important structures involved in the control of posture and gait. Specifically, the mesencephalic locomotor region, which may consist of the cuneiform nucleus and pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPN), occupies the interest with respect to the pathophysiology of posture-gait disorders. The purpose of this article is to review the mechanisms involved in the control of postural muscle tone and locomotion by the mesopontine tegmentum and the pontomedullary reticulospinal system. To make interpretation and discussion more robust, the above issue is considered largely based on our findings in the experiments using decerebrate cat preparations in addition to the results in animal experimentations and clinical investigations in other laboratories. Our investigations revealed the presence of functional topographical organizations with respect to the regulation of postural muscle tone and locomotion in both the mesopontine tegmentum and the pontomedullary reticulospinal system. These organizations were modified by neurotransmitter systems, particularly the cholinergic PPN projection to the pontine reticular formation. Because efferents from the forebrain structures as well as the cerebellum converge to the mesencephalic and pontomedullary reticular formation, changes in these organizations may be involved in the appropriate regulation of posture-gait synergy depending on the behavioral context. On the other hand, abnormal signals from the higher motor centers may produce dysfunction of the mesencephalic-reticulospinal system. Here we highlight the significance of elucidating the mechanisms of the mesencephalic-reticulospinal control of posture and locomotion so that thorough understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms of posture-gait disorders can be made.
Keywords: Behavioral state; Decerebrate cat preparation; Locomotor region; Pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus; Postural muscle tone; Reticulospinal neurons.