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Studies on the excitability of the central program generator in the spinal cord of the terrapin Pseudemys scripta elegans.


We present observations on the multicyclic scratch reflex in spinal terrapins as produced by electrical stimuli applied to the shell at the specific regions at which a mechanical stimulus produces the reflex. EMGs and hip and knee movements are recorded. The responses to the electrical stimuli are similar to the responses to mechanical stimuli. There is a three phase EMG pattern (Stein and Grossman, 1980), to which the movement pattern is related (Bakker and Crowe, 1982). A response may consist of a series of up to 25 movement cycles with a total time course of up to about 30 sec. The initial cycles of a response are relatively fast (less than 1 sec), but the cycles at the expiration of the response may have a duration of 2-3 sec. A single electrical stimulus pulse is often insufficient to trigger a series response. Instead, a weak EMG burst of a few tenths of a second duration, together with a slight movement, is often seen. However, a second pulse can set the cycle series in motion even after an interval of 40 sec between the pulses. A further booster stimulus pulse given while a reflex response is taking place can increase the speed of the movement. If the booster pulse is given just after cessation of reflex activity it can restart the activity, but this second cycle series is often shorter than the first one. The results indicate that the excitability of the central program generator is not constant. Long duration changes in the excitability are produced within the spinal cord.

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