Brainstem Neurons that Command Left/Right Locomotor Asymmetries

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Descending command neurons instruct spinal networks to execute basic locomotor functions, such as which gait and what speed. The command functions for gait and speed are symmetric, implying that a separate unknown system directs asymmetric movements—the ability to move left or right. Here we report the discovery that Chx10-lineage reticulospinal neurons act to control the direction of locomotor movements in mammals. Chx10 neurons exhibit ipsilateral projection, and can decrease spinal limb-based locomotor activity ipsilaterally. This circuit mechanism acts as the basis for left or right locomotor movements in freely moving animals: selective unilateral activation of Chx10 neurons causes ipsilateral movements whereas inhibition causes contralateral movements. Spontaneous forward locomotion is thus transformed into an ipsilateral movement by braking locomotion on the ipsilateral side. We identify sensorimotor brain regions that project onto Chx10 reticulospinal neurons, and demonstrate that their unilateral activation can impart left/right directional commands. Together these data identify the descending motor system which commands left/right locomotor asymmetries in mammals
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2019

ID: 333696914