Premotor spinal network with balanced excitation and inhibition during motor patterns has high resilience to structural division.
Petersen PC., Vestergaard M., Jensen KHR., Berg RW.
Direct measurements of synaptic inhibition (I) and excitation (E) to spinal motoneurons can provide an important insight into the organization of premotor networks. Such measurements of flexor motoneurons participating in motor patterns in turtles have recently demonstrated strong concurrent E and I as well as stochastic membrane potentials and irregular spiking in the adult turtle spinal cord. These findings represent a departure from the widespread acceptance of feedforward reciprocal rate models for spinal motor function. The apparent discrepancy has been reviewed as an experimental artifact caused by the distortion of local networks in the transected turtle spinal cord. We tested this assumption in the current study by performing experiments to assess the integrity of motor functions in the intact spinal cord and the cord transected at segments D9/D10. Excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs to motoneurons were estimated during rhythmic motor activity and demonstrated primarily intense inputs that consisted of qualitatively similar mixed E/I before and after the transection. To understand this high functional resilience, we used mathematical modeling of networks with recurrent connectivity that could potentially explain the balanced E/I. Both experimental and modeling data support the concept of a locally balanced premotor network consisting of recurrent E/I connectivity, in addition to the well known reciprocal network activity. The multifaceted synaptic connections provide spinal networks with a remarkable ability to remain functional after structural divisions.