Common Synaptic Input, Synergies, and Size Principle: Control of Spinal Motor Neurons for Movement Generation
Understanding how movement is controlled by the central nervous system remains a major challenge, with ongoing debate about basic features underlying this control. In this review, we introduce a new conceptual framework for the distribution of common input to spinal motor neurons. Specifically, this framework is based on the following assumptions: 1) motor neurons are grouped into functional groups (clusters) based on the common inputs they receive; 2) clusters may significantly differ from the classical definition of motor neuron pools, such that they may span across muscles and/or involve only a portion of a muscle; 3) clusters represent functional modules used by the central nervous system to reduce the dimensionality of the control; and 4) selective volitional control of single motor neurons within a cluster receiving common inputs cannot be achieved. We discuss this framework and its underlying theoretical and experimental evidence.