Gravity mechanisms in tonic motor system. Neurophysiological and muscle aspects
Peroneal motoneurons were recorded intracellularly in anesthetized cats during sustained submaximal contractions of peroneus brevis muscle (PB) elicited by repetitive electrical stimulation of motor axons in the distal portion of cut ventral root filaments. Mechanical stimulation of the territory innervated by the superficial peroneal nerve (SP) was applied during contraction to assess the influence of afferents from this territory on the contraction-induced excitation of motoneurons. In 21 peroneal motoneurons in which PB contraction evoked excitatory potentials, a stimulation engaging mechanoreceptors located in the skin around toes was found to either enhance (in 12 motoneurons) or reduce (in 9 motoneurons) the contraction-induced excitatory potentials. Among positive effects, six showed simple summation of the responses to each individual stimulus, suggesting a convergence of afferent pathways on motoneurons. In six other motoneurons, complex interactions were observed, as may result from convergence at a premotoneuronal level. Among negative effects, a single instance was observed of inhibitory facilitation, as may result from convergence of cutaneous and muscular, possibly Ib, afferents on inhibitory interneurons. Several pathways, mediating either facilitory or inhibitory influences, are available for cooperation of muscle and cutaneous input, allowing flexibility of motoneuron activation in different tasks.