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Author Notes:

Correspondence: Shawn Hochman, Department of Physiology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, Tel: 404-712-3131, Fax: 404-727-2648, E-mail: shawn.hochman@emory.edu

The authors are indebted to Dr. Patrick Whelan for providing helpful comments to improve the manuscript.


Research Funding:

The authors generously acknowledge the support of various funding agencies. S.H. - Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Craig Neilsen Foundation, Paralyzed Veterans of America, National Science Foundation #0745164, NIH awards EB006179, NS 045248, NS40893, NS40440. E.G. - NIH NRSA. H.H. and J.A. - NSF IGERT DGE-0333411, and NSF GRFPs. S.D. – NIH EB006179. Y-H. C. - NIH AR054760.


  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Spinal cord
  • Locomotion
  • In vitro
  • Dorsal column
  • EMG
  • Central pattern generator
  • CPG
  • Rhythmic
  • Review
  • Afferent
  • Sensory
  • Central pattern generator
  • Cord hindlimb preparation
  • Neonatal rat
  • Epidural stimulation
  • Sacrocaudal afferents
  • Synaptic depression
  • Fictive locomotion
  • Extensor activity
  • Reflex pathways
  • Motor output

Enabling techniques for in vitro studies on mammalian spinal locomotor mechanisms


Journal Title:

Frontiers in Bioscience - Landmark


Volume 17, Number 6


, Pages 2158-2180

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


The neonatal rodent spinal cord maintained in vitro is a powerful model system to understand the central properties of spinal circuits generating mammalian locomotion. We describe three enabling approaches that incorporate afferent input and attached hindlimbs. (i) Sacral dorsal column stimulation recruits and strengthens ongoing locomotor-like activity, and implementation of a closed positive-feedback paradigm is shown to support its stimulation as an untapped therapeutic site for locomotor modulation. (ii) The spinal cord hindlimbs-restrained preparation allows suction electrode electromyographic recordings from many muscles. Inducible complex motor patterns resemble natural locomotion, and insights into circuit organization are demonstrated during spontaneous motor burst 'deletions', or following sensory stimuli such as tail and paw pinch. (iii) The spinal cord hindlimbspendant preparation produces unrestrained hindlimb stepping. It incorporates mechanical limb perturbations, kinematic analyses, ground reaction force monitoring, and the use of treadmills to study spinal circuit operation with movement-related patterns of sensory feedback while providing for stable whole-cell recordings from spinal neurons. Such techniques promise to provide important additional insights into locomotor circuit organization.

Copyright information:

© 2021 The Authors.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
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