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J Neurophysiol. 1999 May;81(5):2437-50.

Coordination of limb movements: three types of intersegmental interneurons in the swimmeret system and their responses to changes in excitation.

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Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, University of California, Davis, California 95616-8519, USA.


Coordination of limb movements: three types of intersegmental interneurons in the swimmeret system and their responses to changes in excitation. During forward locomotion, the movements of swimmerets on different segments of the crayfish abdomen are coordinated so that more posterior swimmerets lead their anterior neighbors by approximately 25%. This coordination is accomplished by mechanisms within the abdominal nerve cord. Here we describe three different types of intersegmental swimmeret interneurons that are necessary and sufficient to accomplish this coordination. These interneurons could be identified both by their structures within their home ganglion and by their physiological properties. These interneurons occur as bilateral pairs in each ganglion that innervates swimmerets, and their axons traverse the minuscule tract (MnT) of their home ganglion before leaving to project to neighboring ganglia. Two types, ASCE and ASCL, projected an axon anteriorly; the third type, DSC, projected posteriorly. Each type fires a burst of impulses starting at a different phase of the swimmeret cycle in its home ganglion. In active preparations, excitation of individual ASCE or DSC interneurons at different phases in the cycle affected the timing of the next cycle in the interneuron's target ganglion. The axons of these interneurons that projected between two ganglia ran close together, and their firing often could be recorded by the same electrode. Experiments in which either this tract or the rest of the intersegmental connectives was cut bilaterally showed that these interneurons were both necessary and sufficient for coordination of neighboring swimmerets. When the level of excitation of the swimmeret system was increased by bath application of carbachol, the period of the system's cycle shortened, but the characteristic phase difference within and between ganglia was preserved. Each of these interneurons responded to this increase in excitation by increasing the frequency of impulses within each burst, but the phases and relative durations of their bursts did not change, and their activity remained coordinated with the cycle in their home ganglion. The decrease in duration of each burst was matched to the increase in impulse frequency within the burst so that the mean numbers of impulses per burst did not change significantly despite a threefold change in period. These three types of interneurons appear to form a concatenated intersegmental coordinating circuit that imposes a particular intersegmental phase on the local pattern generating modules innervating each swimmeret. This circuit is asymmetric, and forces posterior segments to lead each cycle of output.

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