Brainstem control of locomotion and muscle tone with special reference to the role of the mesopontine tegmentum and medullary reticulospinal systems
The present study was designed to elucidate the spinal interneuronal mechanisms of motor inhibition evoked by stimulating the medullary reticular formation. Two questions were addressed. First, whether there is a parallel motor inhibition to motoneurons and to interneurons in reflex pathways. Second, whether the inhibition is mediated by interneurons interposed in known reflex pathways. We recorded the intracellular activity of hindlimb motoneurons in decerebrate cats and examined the effects of medullary stimulation on these neurons and on interneuronal transmission in reflex pathways to them. Stimuli (three pulses at 10-60microA and 1-10ms intervals) delivered to the nucleus reticularis gigantocellularis evoked inhibitory postsynaptic potentials in alpha-motoneurons (n=147) and gamma-motoneurons (n=5) with both early and late latencies. The early inhibitory postsynaptic potentials were observed in 66.4% of the motoneurons and had a latency of 4.0-5.5ms with a segmental delay of more than 1.4ms. The late inhibitory postsynaptic potentials were observed in 98.0% of the motoneurons and had a latency of 30-35ms, with a peak latency of 50-60ms. Both types of inhibitory postsynaptic potentials were evoked through fibers descending in the ventrolateral quadrant. The inhibitory postsynaptic potentials were not influenced by recurrent inhibitory pathways, but both types were greatly attenuated by volleys in flexor reflex afferents. Conditioning medullary stimulation, which was subthreshold to evoke inhibitory postsynaptic potentials in the motoneurons, neither evoked primary afferent depolarization of dorsal roots nor reduced the input resistance of the motoneurons. However, the conditioning stimulation often facilitated non-reciprocal group I inhibitory pathways (Ib inhibitory pathways) to the motoneurons in early (<20ms) and late (30-80ms) periods. In contrast, it attenuated test postsynaptic potentials evoked through reciprocal Ia inhibitory pathways, and excitatory and inhibitory pathways from flexor reflex afferent and recurrent inhibitory pathways. The inhibitory effects were observed in both early and late periods. The present results provide new information about a parallel inhibitory process from the medullary reticular formation that produces a generalized motor inhibition by acting on alpha- and gamma-motoneurons, and on interneurons in reflex pathways. Interneurons receiving inhibition from flexor reflex afferents and a group of Ib interneurons may mediate the inhibitory effects upon motoneurons.