Although the mammalian locomotor CPG has been localized to the lumbar spinal cord, the functional-anatomical organization of flexor and extensor interneurons has not been characterized. Here, we tested the hypothesis that flexor and extensor interneuronal networks for walking are physically segregated in the lumbar spinal cord. For this purpose, we performed optical recordings and lesion experiments from a horizontally sectioned lumbar spinal cord isolated from neonate rats. This ventral hemi spinal cord preparation produces well-organized fictive locomotion when superfused with 5-HT/NMDA. The dorsal surface of the preparation was visualized using the Ca2+ indicator fluo-4 AM, while simultaneously monitoring motor output at ventral roots L2 and L5. Using calcium imaging, we provided a general mapping view of the interneurons that maintained a stable phase relationship with motor output. We showed that the dorsal surface of L1 segment contains a higher density of locomotor rhythmic cells than the other segments. Moreover, L1 segment lesioning induced the most important changes in the locomotor activity in comparison with lesions at the T13 or L2 segments. However, no lesions led to selective disruption of either flexor or extensor output. In addition, this study found no evidence of functional parcellation of locomotor interneurons into flexor and extensor pools at the dorsal-ventral midline of the lumbar spinal cord of the rat.
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Date Published: 17-June-2011
Author(s): Antri M., Mellen N., Cazalets J.