Locomotor training maintains normal inhibitory influence on both alpha- and gamma-motoneurons after neonatal spinal cord transection

Ronaldo M. Ichiyama, Jonas Broman, Roland R. Roy, Hui Zhong, V. Reggie Edgerton, Leif A. Havton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Spinal cord injuries lead to impairments, which are accompanied by extensive reorganization of neuronal circuits caudal to the injury. Locomotor training can aid in the functional recovery after injury, but the neuronal mechanisms associated with such plasticity are only sparsely known. We investigated ultrastructurally the synaptic inputs to tibialis anterior motoneurons (MNs) retrogradely labeled in adult rats that had received a complete midthoracic spinal cord transection at postnatal day 5. A subset of the injured rats received locomotor training. Both γ-and α-MNs were studied. The total number of boutons apposing γ-MNs, but not α-MNs, was reduced after neonatal spinal cord transection. The proportion of inhibitory to excitatory boutons, however, was increased significantly in both α-MNs and γ-MNs in spinally transected rats, but with locomotor training returned to levels observed in intact rats. The specific densities and compositions of synaptic boutons were, however, different between all three groups. Surprisingly, we observed the atypical presence of both C-and M-type boutons apposing the somata of γ-MNs in the spinal rats, regardless of training status. We conclude that a neonatal spinal cord transection induces significant reorganization of synaptic inputs to spinal motoneurons caudal to the site of injury with a net increase in inhibitory influence, which is associated with poor stepping. Spinal cord injury followed by successful locomotor training, however, results in improved bipedal stepping and further synaptic changes with the proportion of inhibitory and excitatory inputs to the motoneurons being similar to that observed in intact rats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-33
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - 5 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


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