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Motor Neurobiology of the Spinal Cord

2001 Edition, June 26, 2001

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ISBN: 978-0-8493-0006-6
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Product Details:

  • Revision: 2001 Edition, June 26, 2001
  • Published Date: June 26, 2001
  • Status: Active, Most Current
  • Document Language: English
  • Published By: CRC Press (CRC)
  • Page Count: 359
  • ANSI Approved: No
  • DoD Adopted: No

Description / Abstract:

Preface

There is no more direct connection between cell biology and animal behavior than that found between motoneurons and movement. Alpha motoneurons are the final common pathway from the central nervous system to the skeletomuscular system, and the synaptic input that converges on motoneurons and causes them to fire necessarily results in the generation of muscle force. Thus, all properties of motoneurons and their synaptic inputs can be interpreted in direct relation to the tasks of producing movement and posture. For many of us, it is this linkage between cells and behavior that motivates study of spinal motoneurons and their synaptic inputs. Others of us are allured by the unique experimental accessibility of the spinal sensorimotor system that favors study of neural processes, which we presume to represent processes in other, less accessible parts of the CNS. Still others are attracted to motor behavior itself and to the underlying neural mechanisms that account for movement function and dysfunction.

All chapters in this book present new methods and/or concepts in motor neurobiology of the spinal cord. The focus on innovative approaches is certainly fitting to our book's parent series, entitled Methods & New Frontiers in Neuroscience . Nonetheless, readers will note that several of the topics addressed here have been the subject of considerable experimental and scholarly attention for many years. Should this realization generate questions about the suitability of these topics in a series on frontiers in neuroscience, we recommend the assertions made by Ragnar Granit in his 1972 essay entitled "Discovery and Understanding." Dr. Granit argues "... that ‘discovery' and ‘understanding' really are different concepts and are not arbitrarily differentiated. There is in discovery a quality of uniqueness tied to a particular moment in time, while understanding goes on and on from level to level of penetration and insight and thus is a process that lasts for years ...".* Several of the chapters in this book present ongoing efforts to achieve understanding of some long-studied, yet incompletely understood issues.

In addition to those directly interested and/or participating in studies of the motor neurobiology of the spinal cord, neurobiologists with different interests and in other fields may find this book useful. As enticement we refer the reader to arguments made by Dr. Patricia Churchland in her book, Neurophilosophy . There she argues persuasively against the notion of a dualistic brain, in which mind and brain structure are two different things. In parallel, she argues against the notion that "... brain processes that make for cognition are one sort of thing and that the brain processes that contribute to motor control belong to an entirely different category." She goes on to say that, "If we want to understand the fundamental principles of cognition, ... we may need to understand their origins in sensorimotor control."**

* Granit R., Discovery and understanding, Ann. Rev. Physiol., 34, 1, 1972.

** Churchland, P.S., Neurophilosophy : Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain , Rumelhart, D.E., Feldman, J.A., and Hayes, P. J., Eds., MIT Press, Boston, 1989.