Locomotion is one of the most complex motor behaviors. Locomotor patterns change during early life,
reflecting development of numerous peripheral and hierarchically organized central structures. Among them, the
spinal cord is of particular interest since it houses the central pattern generator (CPG) for locomotion. This main
command center is capable of eliciting and coordinating complex series of rhythmic neural signals sent to motoneurons
and to corresponding target-muscles for basic locomotor activity. For a long-time, the CPG has been
considered a black box. In recent years, complementary insights from in vitro and in vivo animal models have
contributed significantly to a better understanding of its constituents, properties and ways to recover locomotion
after a spinal cord injury (SCI). This review discusses key findings made by comparing the results of in vitro
isolated spinal cord preparations and spinal-transected in vivo models from neonatal animals. Pharmacological,
electrical, and sensory stimulation approaches largely used to further understand CPG function may also soon
become therapeutic tools for potent CPG reactivation and locomotor movement induction in persons with SCI or
developmental neuromuscular disorder.
Keywords: Development, spinal networks, electrical stimulation, pharmacology, sensory stimulation, electrophysiology, behavior.
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