Independent representations of limb axis length and orientation in spinocerebellar response components

R. E. Poppele, G. Bosco, A. M. Rankin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dorsal spinocerebellar tract (DSCT) neurons transmit sensory signals to the cerebellum that encode global hindlimb parameters, such as the hindlimb end-point position and its direction of movement. Here we use a population analysis approach to examine further the characteristics of DSCT neuronal responses during continuous movements of the hind foot. We used a robot to move the hind paw of anesthetized cats through the trajectories of a step or a figure-8 footpath in a parasagittal plane. Extracellular recordings from 82 cells converted to cycle histograms provided the basis for a principal-component analysis to determine the common features of the DSCT movement responses. Five principal components (PCs) accounted for about 80% of the total variance in the waveforms across units. The first two PCs accounted for about 60% of the variance and they were highly robust across samples. We examined the relationship between the responses and limb kinematic parameters by correlating the PC waveforms with waveforms of the joint angle and limb axis trajectories using multivariate linear regression models. Each PC waveform could be at least partly explained by a linear relationship to joint-angle trajectories, but except for the first PC, they required multiple angles. However, the limb axis parameters more closely related to both the first and second PC waveforms. In fact, linear regression models with limb axis length and orientation trajectories as predictors explained 94% of the variance in both PCs, and each was related to a particular linear combination of position and velocity. The first PC correlated with the limb axis orientation and orientation velocity trajectories, whereas second PC with the length and length velocity trajectories. These combinations were found to correspond to the dynamics of muscle spindle responses. The first two PCs were also most representative of the data set since about half the DSCT responses could be at least 85% accounted for by weighted linear combinations of these two PCs. Higher-order PCs were unrelated to limb axis trajectories and accounted instead for different dynamic components of the responses. The findings imply that an explicit and independent representation of the limb axis length and orientation may be present at the lowest levels of sensory processing in the spinal cord.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-422
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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