In a previous report, we found neurons with ON-OFF and OFF-ON firing activity in the obex reticular formation during scratching. The aim of the present study was to examine whether the spinal neurons also exhibit this type of activity in relation to the "postural stage" of fictive scratching in the cat. We found that the extensor and intermediate scratching neurons exhibit an ON-OFF firing rate; conversely, the flexor neurons show an OFF-ON activity, relative to every scratching episode. These patterns of spiking activity are similar to those found in neurons from the obex reticular formation during scratching. Our findings provide support to the following hypotheses. First, there is a possible functional link between supraspinal and spinal, ON-OFF and OFF-ON neuronal groups. Second, the fictive goal-directed motor action to maintain the fictive "postural stage" of the hindlimb during fictive scratching is associated with the neuronal tonic activity of the OFF-ON spinal neurons, whereas the ON-OFF spinal neurons are associated with an extensor tone that occurred prior the postural stage.
Keywords: CPG; fictive scratching; firing rate; flexor phase; interneurons; lognormal; spinal cord.