The dorsal-side-up trunk orientation in standing quadrupeds is maintained by the postural system driven mainly by somatosensory inputs from the limbs. Postural limb reflexes (PLRs) represent a substantial component of this system. Earlier we described spinal neurons presumably contributing to the generation of PLRs. The first aim of the present study was to reveal trends in the distribution of neurons with different parameters of PLR-related activity across the gray matter of the spinal cord. The second aim was to estimate the contribution of PLR-related neurons with different patterns of convergence of sensory inputs from the limbs to stabilization of body orientation in different planes. For this purpose, the head and vertebral column of the decerebrate rabbit were fixed and the hindlimbs were positioned on a platform. Activity of individual neurons from L5 to L6 was recorded during PLRs evoked by lateral tilts of the platform. In addition, the neurons were tested by tilts of the platform under only the ipsilateral or only the contralateral limb, as well as during in-phase tilts of the platforms under both limbs. We found that, across the spinal gray matter, strength of PLR-related neuronal activity and sensory input from the ipsilateral limb decreased in the dorsoventral direction, while strength of the input from the contralateral limb increased. A near linear summation of tilt-related sensory inputs from different limbs was found. Functional roles were proposed for individual neurons. The obtained data present the first characterization of posture-related spinal neurons, forming a basis for studies of postural networks impaired by injury.
Responses in individual putative spinal interneurons were studied during postural limb reflexes in the decerebrate rabbit preparation. Distribution across the spinal gray matter of different activity parameters and strengths of the ipsilateral and contralateral sensory inputs, was characterized. A hypothesis about functional roles of individual neurons was proposed: each neuron may be a component of a reflex arc that stabilizes orientation of a standing animal in a particular vertical plane.