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J Neurophysiol August 1, 2004; 92 (2): 895-904.
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Dorsal spinal interneurons forming a primitive, cutaneous sensory pathway.

In mammals, sensory projection pathways are provided by just three classes of spinal interneuron that develop from the roof-plate. We asked whether similar sensory projection interneurons are present primitively in a developing lower vertebrate where function can be more readily studied. Using an immobilized Xenopus tadpole spinal cord preparation, we define the properties and connections of spinal sensory projection interneurons using whole cell patch recordings from single neurons or pairs, identified by dye filling. Dorsolateral interneurons lie in the tadpole equivalent of the spinal dorsal horn, and have dorsally located dendrites and an ipsilateral ascending axon that projects into the midbrain. These neurons receive direct, mainly AMPA receptor (AMPAR)-mediated, excitation from skin touch sensory neurons. They in turn produce AMPAR and N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)-mediated excitation of spinal locomotor pattern generator neurons rostrally on the same side of the cord. During swimming, they receive glycinergic modulatory inhibition from ascending interneurons in the spinal locomotor central pattern generator. We conclude that spinal dorsolateral interneurons are a primitive class of excitatory sensory projection neurons activated by ipsilateral cutaneous afferents and carrying excitation ipsilaterally and rostrally as far as the midbrain to initiate or accelerate swimming.

PubMed ID: 15028739
Article link: J Neurophysiol