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Biol Cybern. 2013 Oct;107(5):497-512. doi: 10.1007/s00422-012-0524-4. Epub 2012 Nov 3.

A computational model of visually guided locomotion in lamprey.

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Department of Computational Biology, School of Computer Science and Communication, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 10044, Stockholm, Sweden,


This study addresses mechanisms for the generation and selection of visual behaviors in anamniotes. To demonstrate the function of these mechanisms, we have constructed an experimental platform where a simulated animal swims around in a virtual environment containing visually detectable objects. The simulated animal moves as a result of simulated mechanical forces between the water and its body. The undulations of the body are generated by contraction of simulated muscles attached to realistic body components. Muscles are driven by simulated motoneurons within networks of central pattern generators. Reticulospinal neurons, which drive the spinal pattern generators, are in turn driven directly and indirectly by visuomotor centers in the brainstem. The neural networks representing visuomotor centers receive sensory input from a simplified retina. The model also includes major components of the basal ganglia, as these are hypothesized to be key components in behavior selection. We have hypothesized that sensorimotor transformation in tectum and pretectum transforms the place-coded retinal information into rate-coded turning commands in the reticulospinal neurons via a recruitment network mimicking the layered structure of tectal areas. Via engagement of the basal ganglia, the system proves to be capable of selecting among several possible responses, even if exposed to conflicting stimuli. The anatomically based structure of the control system makes it possible to disconnect different neural components, yielding concrete predictions of how animals with corresponding lesions would behave. The model confirms that the neural networks identified in the lamprey are capable of responding appropriately to simple, multiple, and conflicting stimuli.

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