The plantar cushion reflex circuit: an oligosynaptic cutaneous reflex

1. Reflex toe extension elicited by pressure on the plantar cushion (PC) was studied in cats anaesthetized with Dial. Receptive fields and adequate stimuli for the reflex were evaluated. It was concluded that the receptors for the reflex were chiefly cutaneous pressure receptors in PC.2. The fastest impulses from the PC receptors for this reflex are conducted to the spinal cord at about 64 m/sec via fibres about 10-11 mum in diameter, i.e. the largest afferent fibres from PC. The motoneurones active in the reflex mainly supplied the intrinsic plantar muscles. Most active axons ran in the S1 ventral root.3. Extracellular recordings of interneurones in the dorsal horn of L7 spinal segment revealed that many units at the medial edge of the dorsal horn, chiefly in Rexed’s laminae IV and V, were activated by stimuli similar to those eliciting the PC-toe extension reflex. These were termed intermediate threshold PC units. Some of these medially located units were activated monosynaptically by PC stimulation. Intermediate threshold PC units activated disynaptically or polysynaptically were also found in this medial region of the dorsal horn, as well as ventrolaterally and caudally in lamina V.4. No intermediate threshold PC units sent axons into dorsolateral ipsilateral thoracic white matter, in contrast to lower threshold PC units, 42% of which were driven by lateral column stimulation.5. Extracellular and intracellular recordings were made from motoneurones activated by adequate stimuli for the reflex. Minimum latencies of EPSPs revealed that, for the fastest component of the reflex, at most two interneurones could be interposed between a primary sensory neurone and a motoneurone.6. Although convergence of low threshold PC units on to intermediate threshold PC units or on to motoneurones may play a part in the PC-toe extension reflex, it appears probable that the two populations of intermediate threshold PC interneurones described above, that is, the monosynaptic and the disynaptic (with higher order interneurones), mediate the reflex.

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