Electrical stimulation of the spinal cord is a potent means for activating mammalian stepping in the absence of the descending control from the brain. Previously, we have shown that stimulation of pain delivering (Aδ) sacrocaudal afferents (SCA) has a powerful capacity to activate the sacral and lumbar rhythmogenic networks in the neonatal rodent spinal cord. Relatively little is known about the neural pathways involved in activation of the locomotor networks by Aδ afferents, on their mechanism of action and on the possibility to modulate their activity. We have shown that elevation of the endogenous level of acetylcholine at the sacral cord by blocking cholinesterase could modulate the SCA-induced locomotor rhythm in a muscarinic receptor-dependent mechanism. Here, we review these and more recent findings and report that controlled stimulation of SCA in the presence of muscarine is a potent activator of the locomotor network. The possible mechanisms involved in the muscarinic modulation of the locomotor rhythm are discussed in terms of the differential projections of sacral relay neurons, activated by SCA stimulation, to the lumbar locomotor rhythm generators, and to their target motoneurons. Altogether, our studies show that manipulations of cholinergic networks offer a simple and powerful means to control the activity of locomotor networks in the absence of supraspinal control. (Figure presented.). Cover Image for this issue: https://doi.org/10.1111/jnc.15079.
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© 2021 International Society for Neurochemistry
- ascending pathways
- central pattern generators
- locomotor rhythm
- sacrocaudal afferent stimulation
- spinal interneurons