ABSTRACT: There exists a spatial organization of receptive fields and a modular organization of the flexion withdrawal reflex system. However, the three dimensional location and organization of interneurons interposed in flexion reflex pathways has not been systematically examined. We determined the anatomical locations of spinal neurons involved in the hindlimb flexion withdrawal reflex using expression of the immediate early gene c-fos and the corresponding FOS protein. The flexion withdrawal reflex was evoked in decerebrate cats via stimulation of the tibial or superficial peroneal nerve. Animals that received stimulation had significantly larger numbers of cells expressing FOS-like immunoreactivity (42.7+/-2.3 cells/section, mean+/-standard error of the mean) than operated unstimulated controls (18.6+/-1.4 cells/section). Compared with controls, cells expressing FOS-like immunoreactivity were located predominantly on the ipsilateral side, in laminae IV-VI, at L6 and rostral L7 segments, and between 20% and 60% of the distance from the midline to the lateral border of the ventral gray matter. Labeled neurons resulting from tibial nerve stimulation were medial to neurons labeled following superficial peroneal nerve stimulation in laminae I-VI, but not VII. The mean mediolateral positions of labeled neurons from both nerves shifted medially as the transverse plane in which they were viewed was moved from rostral to caudal and as the coronal plane in which they were viewed was moved from dorsal to ventral. The mediolateral separation between populations of labeled cells was consistent with primary afferent projections and the location of reflex encoders. This topographical segregation corresponding to different afferent inputs is a possible anatomical substrate for a modular organization of the flexion withdrawal reflex system.
Neuroscience 10/2006; 141(4):1983-94. · 3.38 Impact Factor