02 October 2018
Layering of neural circuits facilitates the separation of neurons with high spatial sensitivity from those that play integrative temporal roles. Although anatomical layers are readily identifiable in the brain, layering is not structurally obvious in the spinal cord. But computational studies of motor behaviors have led to the concept of layered processing in the spinal cord. It has been postulated that spinal V3 interneurons (INs) play multiple roles in locomotion, leading us to investigate whether they form layered microcircuits. Using patch-clamp recordings in combination with holographic glutamate uncaging, we demonstrate focal, layered modules, in which ventromedial V3 INs form synapses with one another and with ventrolateral V3 INs, which in turn form synapses with ipsilateral motoneurons. Motoneurons, in turn, provide recurrent excitatory, glutamatergic input to V3 INs. Thus, ventral V3 interneurons form layered microcircuits that could function to ensure well-timed, spatially specific movements.
Using electrophysiology combined with holographic photostimulation, Chopek et al. demonstrate focal layered microcircuits within the spinal cord. These microcircuits are composed of two ventral V3 interneuron sub-populations and ipsilateral motoneurons. Synaptic connectivity was established from medial to lateral, with motoneurons recurrently exciting both V3 interneuron sub-populations.