A new study published in the journal Current Biology reveals that University of Leicester researchers have identified a number of unique forms of spinal nerve activity that influence the output of nerve cell networks responsible for motor behaviors.
Although the neural basis of motor control has been studied for over a century, the processes controlling maturation of locomotor behaviours - like walking and swimming - are not fully understood.
The University of Leicester research into nerve cells responsible for motor behaviours was carried out on fish. The team aimed to understand how spinal networks produce rhythmic activity from a very immature stage - and how such activity changes during maturation.
The team used zebrafish, a freshwater fish native to northern India and Bangladesh, because their motor networks are similar to humans. However, as they are fertilized outside the mother and their embryos are transparent, scientists can readily monitor motor network development from its onset - something that is very difficult to do in mammals.