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J Neurobiol. 1990 Dec;21(8):1219-35.

Parallel motor pathways from thoracic interneurons of the ventral giant interneuron system of the cockroach, Periplaneta americana.

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Department of Biology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106.


The data described here complete the principal components of the cockroach wind-mediated escape circuit from cercal afferents to leg motor neurons. It was previously known that the cercal afferents excite ventral giant interneurons which then conduct information on wind stimuli to thoracic ganglia. The ventral giant interneurons connect to a large population of interneurons in the thoracic ganglia which, in turn, are capable of exciting motor neurons that control leg movements. Thoracic interneurons that receive constant short latency inputs from ventral giant interneurons have been referred to as type A thoracic interneurons (TIAs). In this paper, we demonstrate that the motor response of TIAs occurs in adjacent ganglia as well as in the ganglion of origin for the TIA. We then describe the pathway from TIAs to motor neurons in both ganglia. Our observations reveal complex interactions between thoracic interneurons and leg motor neurons. Two parallel pathways exist. TIAs excite leg motor neurons directly and via local interneurons. Latency and amplitude of post-synaptic potentials (PSPs) in motor neurons and local interneurons either in the ganglion of origin or in adjacent ganglia are all similar. However, the sign of the responses recorded in local interneurons (LI) and motor neurons varies according to the TIA subpopulation based on the location of their cell bodies. One group, the dorsal posterior group, (DPGs) has dorsal cell bodies, whereas the other group, the ventral median cells, (VMC) has ventral cell bodies. All DPG interneurons either excited postsynaptic cells or failed to show any connection at all. In contrast, all VMC interneurons either inhibited postsynaptic cells or failed to show any connection. It appears that the TIAs utilize directional wind information from the ventral giant interneurons to make a decision on the optimal direction of escape. The output connections, which project not only to cells within the ganglion of origin but also to adjacent ganglia and perhaps beyond, could allow this decision to be made throughout the thoracic ganglia as a single unit. However, nothing in these connections indicates a mechanism for making appropriate coordinated leg movements. Because each pair of legs plays a unique role in the turn, this coordination should be controlled by circuits dedicated to each leg. We suggest that this is accomplished by local interneurons between TIAs and leg motor neurons.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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