As the research group led by Professor Silvia Arber at the University of Basel's Biozentrum and the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research has now discovered, many neurons in the spinal cord send their instructions not only towards the musculature, but at the same time also back to the brain via an exquisitely organized network.
Synaptic terminals of premotor neurons in the studied brainstem nucleus (blue). Axons of a marked spinal interneuron subpopulation terminating in a specific domain of this brainstem nucleus (pink).
This dual information stream provides the neural basis for accurate control of arm and hand movements. These findings have now been published in Cell.
Movement is a fundamental capability of humans and animals, involving the highly complex interplay of brain, nerves and muscles. Movements of our arms and hands, in particular, call for extremely precise coordination. The brain sends a constant stream of commands via the spinal cord to our muscles to execute a wide variety of movements.
This stream of information from the brain reaches interneurons in the spinal cord, which then transmit the commands via further circuits to motor neurons innervating muscles. The research group led by Silvia Arber at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel and the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research has now elucidated the organization of a second information pathway taken by these commands.Cc to the brain: one command – two directions
In further studies, Silvia Arber’s group now plans to investigate what happens if the flow of information back to the brain is disrupted in specific ways. Since some interneurons facilitate and others inhibit movement, such studies could provide additional insights into the functionality of circuits controlling movement.
Cell, Volume 156, Issue 3, 537-548, 30 January 2014 | doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.12.014
Heike Sacher | Universität Basel
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