Role of Sensory-Evoked NMDA Plateau Potentials in the Initiation of Locomotion

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Science  07 Nov 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5340, pp. 1122-1125
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5340.1122

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Reticulospinal (RS) neurons constitute the main descending motor system of lampreys. This study reports on natural conditions wherebyN-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA)–mediated plateau potentials were elicited and associated with the onset of locomotion. Reticulospinal neurons responded in a linear fashion to mild skin stimulation. With stronger stimuli, large depolarizing plateaus with spiking activity were elicited and were accompanied by swimming movements. Calcium imaging revealed sustained intracellular calcium rise upon sensory stimulation. Blocking NMDA receptors on RS neurons prevented the plateau potentials as well as the associated rise in intracellular calcium. Thus, the activation of NMDA receptors mediates a switch from sensory-reception mode to a motor command mode in RS neurons.

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