Interactions between pathways controlling posture and gait at the level of spinal interneurones in the cat

Prog Brain Res. 1993;97:161-71. doi: 10.1016/s0079-6123(08)62274-8.


The properties of three interneuronal populations controlling posture and locomotion are briefly reviewed. These are interneurones mediating reciprocal inhibition of antagonistic muscles and interneurones in pathways from secondary muscle spindle afferents to ipsilateral and contralateral motoneurones, respectively. It will be shown that these interneurones subserve a variety of movements, with functionally specialized subpopulations being selected under different conditions. Mechanisms for gating the activity of these neurones appear to be specific for each of them but to act in concert. Interneurones which are active during locomotion and postural reactions are distributed over many segments of the spinal cord and over several of Rexed's laminae, both in the intermediate zone and in the ventral horn (Berkinblit et al., 1978; Bayev et al., 1979; Schor et al., 1986; Yates et al., 1989). The location of neurones discharging during neck and labyrinthine reflexes is illustrated in Fig. 1A and B but indications that neurones with an even wider distribution contribute to locomotion, scratching and the related postural reactions have been provided by neuronal markers which preferentially label active neurones (WGA-HRP; see Noga et al., 1987) or neurones with active genetic transcription (c-fos; I. Barajon, personal communication; Dai et al., 1991). Such a wide distribution indicates a high degree of non-homogeneity, since neurones of different functional types are usually located in different laminae. It has been demonstrated that some of these neurones may be particularly important for setting up the rhythm of muscle contractions specific for different gaits or scratching, as part of their "pattern generators" (see, e.g., Grillner, 1981). Other neurones may be primarily involved in initiation of these movements or in postural adjustments combined with them. A considerable proportion of neurones mediating these movements are nevertheless likely to be used not in one particular type of movement but in a variety of movements, and contribute to postural reactions and locomotion as well as to various segmental reflexes and centrally initiated movements; they are likely to operate as last order (premotor) interneurones of several spinal pathways to motoneurones. One of the indications that this is the case is the overlap between the areas of location of interneurones active during postural reactions, locomotion, or scratching and the areas of location of premotor interneurones (Fig. 1C,D). The latter were labelled by loading motoneurones with WGA-HRP and by its subsequent retrograde transneuronal transport (see Harrison et al., 1986).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Ear, Inner / physiology
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscles / innervation
  • Neck Muscles / physiology
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Reflex
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*