Neurons That Coordinate Walking Has Been Identified!

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Spinal cord neurons involved in coordinating our steps while we walk have been identified by a new study at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, published in the journal Cell.

Although walking is the most natural of movements, it involves complex interplay of nerves and muscles that allows putting one foot forward and then the next, on and on, thereby propelling us forward without thinking.

‘Coordination of walking muscles with precise timing is found to be handled by neurons in the spinal cord (known as ventral spinocerebellar tract neurons) rather than that in the brain.

“As one might expect, it’s the brain that initiates locomotion. But it doesn’t coordinate it,” says Columbia neuroscientist George Mentis, PhD, associate professor of pathology & cell biology (in neurology) at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

These spinal cord neurons are known as ventral spinocerebellar tract neurons that orchestrate the ability to move muscles. These findings may have important implications in developing new therapies for people with spinal cord injuries or motor disorders.

“Our findings suggest that you would also have to restore proper activity in the ventral spinocerebellar tract neurons to ensure that the central pattern generator is working properly. Everything has to be tightly balanced between exciting certain neurons and inhibiting others. If this balance is compromised, you won’t have coordinated movement,” says Mentis.

Source: Medindia


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