Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date



Spontaneous and evoked spinal activities interact to set the characteristics of emergent motor responses. Gamma motor neurons have feedforward and feedback functions in motor control, which are crucial for transforming motor commands into action. Meanwhile, the intrinsic excitability and functional connectivity of alpha motor neurons determine the accuracy of actions. In this study, we investigated the effects of trans-spinal direct current stimulation (tsDCS) on spontaneous and cortically evoked activity of well-isolated single units of gamma and alpha motor neurons in mice. We also investigated the effects of tsDCS on reflexive and locomotor actions. In general, motor neurons showed increased responses to cathodal tsDCS (c-tsDCS) and decreased responses to anodal tsDCS (a-tsDCS). These effects were observed for cortically evoked discharges and spontaneous firing rates of gamma motor neurons, cortically evoked discharges of larger alpha motor neurons, and spontaneous firing rates of smaller alpha motor neurons. An exception was that spontaneous firing rates of larger alpha motor neurons showed the opposite pattern of reduction by c-tsDCS and increase by a-tsDCS. Reflexive and voluntary behavior were also increased by c-tsDCS and reduced by a-tsDCS. Specifically, the amplitude and duration of crossed and tail pinch reflexes in decerebrate animals and the quality of ground and treadmill walking patterns in healthy awake animals showed this pattern. These polarity-specific changes in behavior could be attributed to polarity-mediated modulation of alpha and gamma motor neuron activity and spinal circuitry. The results reveal an important principle: effects of tsDCS on spinal motor neurons depend on current polarity and cell size.


This article was originally published in Physiological Reports, available at doi: 10.14814/phy2.12696.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

Included in

Neurosciences Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.