Jackson Estuarine Laboratory

Neural correlates of swimming behavior in Melibe leonina


The nudibranch Melibe leonina swims by rhythmically bending from side to side at a frequency of 1 cycle every 2–4 s. The objective of this study was to locate putative swim motoneurons (pSMNs) that drive these lateral flexions and determine if swimming in this species is produced by a swim central pattern generator (sCPG). In the first set of experiments, intracellular recordings were obtained from pSMNs in semi-intact, swimming animals. About 10–14 pSMNs were identified on the dorsal surface of each pedal ganglion and 4–7 on the ventral side. In general, the pSMNs in a given pedal ganglion fired synchronously and caused the animal to flex in that direction, whereas the pSMNs in the opposite pedal ganglion fired in anti-phase. When swimming stopped, so did rhythmic pSMN bursting; when swimming commenced, pSMNs resumed bursting. In the second series of experiments, intracellular recordings were obtained from pSMNs in isolated brains that spontaneously expressed the swim motor program. The pattern of activity recorded from pSMNs in isolated brains was very similar to the bursting pattern obtained from the same pSMNs in semi-intact animals, indicating that the sCPG can produce the swim rhythm in the absence of sensory feedback. Exposing the brain to light or cutting the pedal-pedal connectives inhibited fictive swimming in the isolated brain. The pSMNs do not appear to participate in the sCPG. Rather, they received rhythmic excitatory and inhibitory synaptic input from interneurons that probably comprise the sCPG circuit.

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Biological Bulletin


University of Chicago Press

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