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Salk scientists reveal circuitry of fundamental motor circuit
Date:5/2/2014

o monitor locomotion in the spinal cord itself, the team saw a synchronous pattern of flexor and extensor activity when V2b interneurons were inactivated along with the V1 interneurons.

The team also showed that this synchronicity led to newborn mice displaying a tetanus-like reaction when the two types of interneurons were inactivated: the limbs froze in one position because they no longer had the push-pull balance of excitation and inhibition that is needed to move.

These findings further confirm the hypothesis put forward over 120 years ago by the Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist, Charles Sherrington, that flexor-extensor alternation is essential for locomotion in all animals that have limbs. He proposed that specialized cells in the spinal cord called switching cells performed this function. After 120 years, Goulding and researchers have now uncovered the identity of these switching cells.

"Our whole motor system is built around flexor-extension; this is the cornerstone component of movement," says Goulding, holder of Salk's Frederick W. and Joanna J. Mitchell Chair. "If you really want to understand how animals move you need to understand the contribution of these switching cells."

With a more thorough understanding of the basic science around how this flexor-extensor circuit works, scientists will be in a better position to, for example, create a system that can reactivate the spinal cord or mimic signals sent from the brain to the spinal cord.


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Contact: Chris Emery
cemery@salk.edu
Salk Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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