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Direct and Indirect Connections with Upper Limb Motoneurons from the Primate Reticulospinal Tract

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Stuart BakerORCiD



Although the reticulospinal tract is a major descending motor pathway in mammals, its contribution to upper limb control in primates has received relatively little attention. Reticulospinal connections are widely assumed to be responsible for coordinated gross movements primarily of proximal muscles, whereas the corticospinal tract mediates fine movements, particularly of the hand. In this study, we used intracellular recording in anesthetized monkeys to examine the synaptic connections between the reticulospinal tract and antidromically identified cervical ventral horn motoneurons, focusing in particular on motoneurons projecting distally to wrist and digit muscles. We found that motoneurons receive monosynaptic and disynaptic reticulospinal inputs, including monosynaptic excitatory connections to motoneurons that innervate intrinsic hand muscles, a connection not previously known to exist. We show that excitatory reticulomotoneuronal connections are as common and as strong in hand motoneuron groups as in forearm or upper arm motoneurons. These data suggest that the primate reticulospinal system may form a parallel pathway to distal muscles, alongside the corticospinal tract. Reticulospinal neurons are therefore in a position to influence upper limb muscle activity after damage to the corticospinal system as may occur in stroke or spinal cord injury, and may be a target site for therapeutic interventions.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Riddle CN, Edgley SA, Baker SN

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Neuroscience

Year: 2009

Volume: 29

Issue: 15

Pages: 4993-4999

Date deposited: 04/08/2010

ISSN (print): 0270-6474

ISSN (electronic): 1529-2401

Publisher: Society for Neuroscience


DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3720-08.2009


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Funder referenceFunder name
Medical Research Council (UK)
Merck Sharp Dohme
Wellcome Trust
5R01NS040863-07National Institutes of Health