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J Neurophysiol. 2003 Mar;89(3):1327-38. Epub 2002 Nov 13.

Follower neurons in lobster (Panulirus interruptus) pyloric network regulate pacemaker period in complementary ways.

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  • 1Neuroscience Program, Department of Biological Sciences, Irvine Hall, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio 45701, USA.


Distributed neural networks (ones characterized by high levels of interconnectivity among network neurons) are not well understood. Increased insight into these systems can be obtained by perturbing network activity so as to study the functions of specific neurons not only in the network's "baseline" activity but across a range of network activities. We applied this technique to study cycle period control in the rhythmic pyloric network of the lobster, Panulirus interruptus. Pyloric rhythmicity is driven by an endogenous oscillator, the Anterior Burster (AB) neuron. Two network neurons feed back onto the pacemaker, the Lateral Pyloric (LP) neuron by inhibition and the Ventricular Dilator (VD) neuron by electrical coupling. LP and VD neuron effects on pyloric cycle period can be studied across a range of periods by altering period by injecting current into the AB neuron and functionally removing (by hyperpolarization) the LP and VD neurons from the network at each period. Within a range of pacemaker periods, the LP and VD neurons regulate period in complementary ways. LP neuron removal speeds the network and VD neuron removal slows it. Outside this range, network activity is disrupted because the LP neuron cannot follow slow periods, and the VD neuron cannot follow fast periods. These neurons thus also limit, in complementary ways, normal pyloric activity to a certain period range. These data show that follower neurons in pacemaker networks can play central roles in controlling pacemaker period and suggest that in some cases specific functions can be assigned to individual network neurons.

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