Long ascending propriospinal neurons provide flexible, context-specific control of interlimb coordination.

eLife (2020-09-10)
Amanda M Pocratsky, Courtney T Shepard, Johnny R Morehouse, Darlene A Burke, Amberley S Riegler, Josiah T Hardin, Jason E Beare, Casey Hainline, Gregory Jr States, Brandon L Brown, Scott R Whittemore, David Sk Magnuson

Within the cervical and lumbar spinal enlargements, central pattern generator (CPG) circuitry produces the rhythmic output necessary for limb coordination during locomotion. Long propriospinal neurons that inter-connect these CPGs are thought to secure hindlimb-forelimb coordination, ensuring that diagonal limb pairs move synchronously while the ipsilateral limb pairs move out-of-phase during stepping. Here, we show that silencing long ascending propriospinal neurons (LAPNs) that inter-connect the lumbar and cervical CPGs disrupts left-right limb coupling of each limb pair in the adult rat during overground locomotion on a high-friction surface. These perturbations occurred independent of the locomotor rhythm, intralimb coordination, and speed-dependent (or any other) principal features of locomotion. Strikingly, the functional consequences of silencing LAPNs are highly context-dependent; the phenotype was not expressed during swimming, treadmill stepping, exploratory locomotion, or walking on an uncoated, slick surface. These data reveal surprising flexibility and context-dependence in the control of interlimb coordination during locomotion.

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