Detection of weak synaptic interactions between single Ia afferent and motor‐unit spike trains in the decerebrate cat.

Bernard A. Conway, David M. Halliday, Jay R. Rosenberg

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17 Citations (Scopus)


1. Spike trains from identified single Ia afferents from soleus and lateral gastrocnemius muscles were recorded (while ‘in continuity’ with the spinal cord) simultaneously with single‐motor‐unit EMG spike trains from the same muscles in decerebrate cats. 2. A total of 143 Ia afferent‐motor‐unit pairs were examined for the presence of correlated activity between the Ia afferent and motor‐unit and between the motor‐unit and Ia afferent. Four types of correlation were identified on the basis of the cross‐intensity function estimated for individual Ia afferent‐motor‐unit pairs. These correlations were attributed to the absence or presence of a central Ia afferent‐motoneurone interaction or a peripheral motor‐unit‐muscle spindle interaction. 3. In addition to the cross‐correlation‐based second‐order cross‐intensity function, third‐order cumulants were defined and used further to investigate Ia afferent‐motor‐unit interactions. A third‐order cumulant density‐based approach to signal processing offers improved signal‐to‐noise ratios, compared with the traditional product density approach, for parameters characterizing certain kinds of linear processes as well as a description of non‐linear interactions. Two classes of third‐order relations were described. One class was associated with a strong central connection and the other with a weak central connection. 4. Third‐order cumulants estimated for Ia afferent‐motor‐unit pairs with significant second‐order central correlations were able to detect a period of decreased motoneuronal excitability. In addition, temporal summation prior to spike initiation could be identified in cases where the afferent discharge was suitably high. 5. Third‐order cumulants estimated for Ia afferent‐motor‐unit pairs in which no significant second‐order central correlation existed identified the presence of weak synaptic interactions. It is argued that these interactions result from the summation from the recorded Ia afferent discharge and other spontaneous synaptic inputs to the motoneurone. 6. The results of the second‐order cross‐intensity analysis of Ia afferent‐motor‐unit interactions, combined with those from the third‐order cumulant density analysis, showed that 77% of the recorded afferents had a detectable influence on motor‐unit behaviour. 7. The results of this study suggest that the third‐order cumulant, based on the analysis of spike trains, will provide a useful tool for detecting synaptic interactions not found by the use of the second‐order cross‐correlation histogram alone, and may also be used to estimate the time course of post‐spike depression in motoneurones, as well as other non‐linear regions of motoneurone membrane trajectory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-409
Number of pages31
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 1993


  • afferent nerve group 1
  • animal experiment
  • cell interaction
  • decerebration
  • electromyogram
  • gastrocnemius muscle
  • motoneuron
  • neuromuscular synapse
  • soleus muscle


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