The effects of intrathecal administration of excitatory amino acid agonists and antagonists on the initiation of locomotion in the adult cat

J. R. Douglas, B. R. Noga, X. Dai, L. M. Jordan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


Development of pharmacological strategies for the control of locomotion in patients with spinal cord injury or disease requires an understanding of the neuroactive substances involved in the activation of the spinal cord neural systems for the control of locomotion. Studies using the in vitro preparations of the lamprey, frog embryo, and newborn rat indicate that excitatory amino acids (EAAs) are involved in the initiation of locomotion. The present study determines whether spinal EAA receptors play a role in locomotion in an in vivo, adult mammalian preparation. Experiments were performed on precollicular, postmammillary decerebrate cats, some of which were spinalized at the 13th thoracic segment. Cannulas for drug infusions were positioned intrathecally in the lumbar region of the spinal cord. A ligature around the spinal cord at the level of the 13th thoracic segment prevented rostral diffusion of the drugs. Locomotion was monitored with electromyograms in treadmill locomotion experiments and electroneurograms in fictive locomotion experiments. Intrathecal infusion of either the NMDA receptor antagonist 2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid or the non-NMDA receptor antagonist 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione blocked hindlimb treadmill and fictive locomotion induced by electrical stimulation of the mesencephalic locomotor region (MLR) of the midbrain. Intrathecal administration of NMDA elicited hindlimb fictive locomotion in resting animals similar to that evoked by electrical stimulation of the MLR. At lower concentrations, NMDA evoked either independent bursting activity in the various nerves or loosely organized rhythmicity showing little reciprocity between antagonists. In contrast, administration of the EAA uptake blocker dihydrokainic acid (DHK) evoked intermittent periods of bursting activity characterized by a variable duration and a high degree of reciprocity between flexors and extensors. Given together at low concentrations, NMDA and DHK produced a well-coordinated locomotor pattern. Kainate and quisqualate were ineffective in producing fictive locomotion. These results are consistent with the suggestion that EAAs play a role in the initiation of mammalian locomotion. Furthermore the results are consistent with those obtained from the neonatal rat in vitro preparations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)990-1000
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Decerebrate cat
  • Excitatory amino acids
  • Fictive locomotion
  • Intrathecaf administration
  • Mesencephalic locomotor region
  • NMDA
  • Non-NMDA
  • Treadmill locomotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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