Feedback to the future: motor neuron contributions to central pattern generator function.J Exp Biol 2019; 222(Pt 16)JE
Motor behaviors depend on neural signals in the brain. Regardless of where in the brain behavior patterns arise, the central nervous system sends projections to motor neurons, which in turn project to and control temporally appropriate muscle contractions; thus, motor neurons are traditionally considered the last relay from the central nervous system to muscles. However, in an array of species and motor systems, an accumulating body of evidence supports a more complex role of motor neurons in pattern generation. These studies suggest that motor neurons not only relay motor patterns to the periphery, but directly contribute to pattern generation by providing feedback to upstream circuitry. In spinal and hindbrain circuits in a variety of animals - including flies, worms, leeches, crustaceans, rodents, birds, fish, amphibians and mammals - studies have indicated a crucial role for motor neuron feedback in maintaining normal behavior patterns dictated by the activity of a central pattern generator. Hence, in this Review, we discuss literature examining the role of motor neuron feedback across many taxa and behaviors, and set out to determine the prevalence of motor neuron participation in motor circuits.