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Lower motor neurons (LMNs) are the motoneurons connecting the brainstem and spinal cord to muscle fibers, bringing the nerve impulses from the upper motor neurons out to the muscles.


Lower motor neurons are classified based on the type of muscle fiber they block. Alpha motor neurons (α-MNs) innervate extrafusal muscle fibers, the most numerous type of muscle fiber and the one most involved in contracting in a muscle. Gamma motor neurons (γ-MNs) innervate intrafusal muscle fibers, which are involved with muscle spindles and the sense of body position.


At the anterior horn cells within the spinal cord glutamate released from the upper motor neurons triggers depolarization in the lower motor neurons causing an action potential to propagate the length of the axon to the neuromuscular junction where acetylcholine is released to carry the signal across the synaptic cleft to the postsynaptic receptors of the muscle cell membrane, signaling the muscle to contract.

Consequences of lesions

Damage to lower motor neurons is indicated by abnormal EMG potentials, fasciculations, paralysis, weakening of muscles, and neurogenic atrophy of skeletal muscle.

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