‘Reticulospinal neuron’ by Monica Folgueira & Steve Wilson. Wellcome Collection. CC BY.
The motor area of your brain gives the orders your muscles execute, but those motion signals have to squeeze through your brainstem on their way down your spine and out into your body. That’s where this green cell comes in – a reticulospinal neuron, seen here in the hindbrain of a zebrafish. These nerve cells have many jobs, but one is to help start, maintain, and stop certain types of movement.
In lamprey eels, for example, researchers have found one such group of cells that act like the eel’s brakes: When they fire, the eel stops swimming. Triggering the cells with drugs also stops the eel mid-motion, and impairing their ability to talk with other neurons results in an eel that takes longer to slow down.
Juvin, L., Grätsch, S., Trillaud-Doppia, E., Gariépy, J., Büschges, A., & Dubuc, R. (2016). A Specific Population of Reticulospinal Neurons Controls the Termination of Locomotion. Cell Reports, 15(11), 2377-2386. doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2016.05.029. https://www.cell.com/cell-reports/pdf/S2211-1247(16)30612-X.pdf
Reticulospinal Tract. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2018, from https://www.physio-pedia.com/Reticulospinal_Tract