• development;
  • spinal cord;
  • imaging;
  • chick;
  • mouse


In this review, we discuss the use of imaging to visualize the spatiotemporal organization of network activity in the developing spinal cord of the chick embryo and the neonatal mouse. We describe several different methods for loading ion- and voltage-sensitive dyes into spinal neurons and consider the advantages and limitations of each one. We review work in the chick embryo, suggesting that motoneurons play a critical role in the initiation of each cycle of spontaneous network activity and describe how imaging has been used to identify a class of spinal interneuron that appears to be the avian homolog of mammalian Renshaw cells or 1a-inhibitory interneurons. Imaging of locomotor-like activity in the neonatal mouse revealed a wave-like activation of motoneurons during each cycle of discharge. We discuss the significance of this finding and its implications for understanding how locomotor-like activity is coordinated across different segments of the cord. In the last part of the review, we discuss some of the exciting new prospects for the future. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol, 2008