Simulation system of spinal cord motor nuclei and associated nerves and muscles, in a Web-based architecture

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Abstract

A Web-based simulation system of the spinal cord circuitry responsible for muscle control is described. The simulator employs two-compartment motoneuron models for S, FR and FF types, with synaptic inputs acting through conductance variations. Four motoneuron pools with their associated interneurons are represented in the simulator, with the possibility of inclusion of more than 2,000 neurons and 2,000,000 synapses. Each motoneuron action potential is followed, after a conduction delay, by a motor unit potential and a motor unit twitch. The sums of all motor unit potentials and twitches result in the electromyogram (EMG), and the muscle force, respectively. Inputs to the motoneuron pool come from populations of interneurons (Ia reciprocal inhibitory interneurons, Ib interneurons, and Renshaw cells) and from stochastic point processes associated with descending tracts. To simulate human electrophysiological experiments, the simulator incorporates external nerve stimulation with orthodromic and antidromic propagation. This provides the mechanisms for reflex generation and activation of spinal neuronal circuits that modulate the activity of another motoneuron pool (e.g., by reciprocal inhibition). The generation of the H-reflex by the Ia-motoneuron pool system and its modulation by spinal cord interneurons is included in the simulation system. Studies with the simulator may include the statistics of individual motoneuron or interneuron spike trains or the collective effect of a motor nucleus on the dynamics of muscle force control. Properties associated with motor-unit recruitment, motor-unit synchronization, recurrent inhibition and reciprocal inhibition may be investigated.

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