Work early in the last century emphasized the stereotyped activity of spinal circuits based on studies of reflexes. However, the last several decades have focused on the plasticity of these spinal circuits. These considerations began with studies of the effects of monoamines on descending and reflex circuits. In recent years new classes of compounds called growth factors that are found in peripheral nerves and the spinal cord have been shown to affect circuit behavior in the spinal cord. In this review we will focus on the effects of neurotrophins, particularly nerve growth factor (NGF), brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), on spinal circuits. We also discuss evidence that these molecules can modify functions including nociceptive behavior, motor reflexes and stepping behavior. Since these substances and their receptors are normally present in the spinal cord, they could potentially be useful in improving function in disease states and after injury. Here we review recent findings relevant to these translational issues. © 2014 Boyce and Mendell.
Boyce, V. S., & Mendell, L. M. (2014). Neurotrophins and spinal circuit function. Frontiers in Neural Circuits, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fncir.2014.00059