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Stochastic Resonance in the Motor System: Effects of Noise on the Monosynaptic Reflex Pathway of the Cat Spinal Cord

AuthorsMartínez, Lourdes; Pérez, Toni; Mirasso, Claudio R. CSIC ORCID ; Manjarrez, Elías
KeywordsStochastic resonance
Noise (statistical physics)
Nonlinear dynamical systems
Biological/Medical Physics
Issue Date16-Jun-2007
PublisherAmerican Physiological Society
CitationJournal of Neurophysiology 97, 4007-4016 (2007)
AbstractIn sensory systems the presence of a particular non-zero level of noise may significantly enhance the ability of an individual to detect weak sensory stimuli through a phenomenon known as stochastic resonance (SR). The aim of this study was to demonstrate if such phenomenon is also exhibited by the motor system; in particular, in the Ia-motoneuron synapse of the cat spinal cord. Monosynaptic reflexes elicited by periodic electrical stimulation to the medial gastrocnemius nerve were recorded in the L7 ventral root (or in single motoneurons) of decerebrated cats. Random stretches (mechanical noise) were applied to the lateral gastrocnemius plus soleus muscle by means of a closed-loop mechanical stimulator-transducer. In all cats we observed the SR phenomenon. The amplitude of the monosynaptic reflexes (or number of action potentials recorded in the motoneurons) evoked by the weak electrical stimuli applied to the medial gastrocnemius nerve were an inverted U-like function of the mechanical noise applied to the lateral gastrocnemius plus soleus muscle. A significant maximum value in the amplitude of the monosynaptic responses was reached with a particular noise amplitude value. Numerical simulations on a model of the monosynaptic reflex pathway qualitatively reproduce this stochastic resonance behavior. We conclude that the monosynaptic reflex response elicited by Ia afferents is optimized by the noisy stretching of a synergistic muscle. Our study provides the first direct demonstration that the motor system, and not only the sensory systems, exhibits the SR phenomenon.
Description10 pages, 4 figures.-- PMID: 17428901 [PubMed].
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