Disynaptic group I excitation of synergist ankle extensor motoneurones during fictive locomotion in the cat

J Physiol. 1995 Sep 1;487 ( Pt 2)(Pt 2):527-39. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1995.sp020897.


1. Intracellular recording from medial gastrocnemius (MG) motoneurones was used to examine postsynaptic potentials produced by electrical stimulation of the plantaris nerve at group I strength at rest and during fictive locomotion. Fictive locomotion was evoked by stimulation of the midbrain locomotor region (MLR) in decerebrate cats or in decerebrate, acute low-spinal cats by perineal stimulation following intravenous administration of clonidine and naloxone. 2. In both MLR and spinal fictive locomotor preparations, stimulation of plantaris nerve group I afferents at rest evoked short-latency (< 2 ms) IPSPs in MG motoneurones. During the extensor phase of MLR-evoked locomotion, the same stimulation produced short-latency (1.6-1.8 ms) EPSPs. Such latencies suggest mediation by one interneurone interposed between plantaris nerve group I afferents and MG motoneurones. Non-monosynaptic, short-latency excitation was not seen at rest nor during the flexion phase of the step cycle. 3. Group I EPSPs during the extensor phase of MLR-evoked locomotion were evoked by stimulation at intensities ranging from 1.4-2 times threshold (T). The effectiveness of stimulation intensities < 1.5 T suggests that activation of group II afferents is not required to evoke disynaptic excitation. Selective activation of group Ia afferents by stretches of the Achilles tendon also produced disynaptic EPSPs during extension. 4. During fictive locomotion in spinal animals pretreated with clonidine, short-latency group I EPSPs were not seen but group I IPSPs recorded at rest disappeared or were greatly attenuated. The failure of depolarizing current to reveal group I IPSPs suggests that fictive locomotion involves an inhibition of the inhibitory interneurones that operate at rest. In both clonidine-treated spinal and MLR preparations, trains of stimuli at group I strength evoked longer-latency and slowly rising potentials that were more prominent during the flexor phase of fictive locomotion. 5. These results show a reduction in short-latency group I inhibition of synergists in both MLR and clonidine-treated spinal preparations during fictive locomotion. In addition, activation of group I afferents evokes short-latency excitation of synergists during extension in the MLR preparation. Such excitatory reflexes activated by ankle extensor group Ia and Ib afferents may form an excitatory feedback system, reinforcing on-going extensor activity during the stance phase of the step cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Clonidine / pharmacology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / drug effects
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology*
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / drug effects
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Naloxone / pharmacology
  • Neuromuscular Junction / drug effects
  • Neuromuscular Junction / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Tarsus, Animal


  • Naloxone
  • Clonidine