A team of scientists has found new and revealing data that could help answer one of the major outstanding questions in neuroscience: What circuit of brain initiates rhythmic own actions as walking, running and swimming?

Although experiments in the 1970s using electrical stimulation of the brain was identified areas of the brain responsible for initiating locomotion, the exact pathway, neuron by neuron, was not described in any vertebrate, so far.

frog xenopus tadpole

To find this path, Dr. Edgar Buhl and colleagues at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, UK, studied a vertebrate small and simple: the frog Xenopus tadpole.

Buhl’s team has found the “circuit” that starts right at the swimming movements, and has also found that this pathway is composed of only four types of neurons.

They found clear as the old riddle of how to start locomotion after sensory stimulation and for the first time in a vertebrate, define in detail a direct line responsibility. The findings from this study could be of great evolutionary interest and may also open the way to find out exactly how to start locomotion movements in other vertebrates.

When the brain mechanisms that initiate locomotion are damaged, such as happens in people with Parkinson’s disease, there are many problems. The involuntary movements is perhaps the most popularly known. But one of the most distressing for the patient in an advanced stage of disease is to overcome the difficulties you experience when you try to go for a walk. So find out how exactly are started swimming movements in tadpoles could be a first step towards the ultimate goal of unraveling the intricacies of the implementation of more complex vertebrate locomotion, including the Human Being. And in the end, this line of research could even lead to useful findings for the treatment of movement disorders including Parkinson’s disease.