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J Insect Physiol. 2008 Jan;54(1):51-61. Epub 2007 Sep 4.

Activity of neuromodulatory neurones during stepping of a single insect leg.

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Department of Animal Physiology, Institute for Zoology, University of Cologne, Weyertal 119, 50923 Cologne, Germany.


Octopamine plays a major role in insect motor control and is released from dorsal unpaired median (DUM) neurones, a group of cells located on the dorsal midline of each ganglion. We were interested whether and how these neurones are activated during walking and chose the semi-intact walking preparation of stick insects that offers to investigate single leg-stepping movements. DUM neurones were characterized in the thoracic nerve cord by backfilling lateral nerves. These backfills revealed a population of 6-8 efferent DUM cells per thoracic segment. Mesothoracic DUM cells were subsequently recorded during middle leg stepping and characterized by intracellular staining. Seven out of eight identified individual different types of DUM neurones were efferent. Seven types except the DUMna nl2 were tonically depolarized during middle leg stepping and additional phasic depolarizations in membrane potential linked to the stance phase of the middle leg were observed. These DUM neurones were all multimodal and received depolarizing synaptic drive when the abdomen, antennae or different parts of the leg were mechanically stimulated. We never observed hyperpolarising synaptic inputs to DUM neurones. Only one type of DUM neurone, DUMna, exhibited spontaneous rhythmic activity and was unaffected by different stimuli or walking movements.

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