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J Neurophysiol. 1988 Dec;60(6):2122-37.

Electrical activation of the pocket scratch central pattern generator in the turtle.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 63130.


1. A low-spinal, immobilized turtle displays a fictive scratch reflex in hindlimb motor neurons in response to tactile stimulation of the shell (17, 19). Turtles exhibit three forms of the scratch reflex: rostral, pocket, and caudal. Each form is elicited by tactile stimulation of a different receptive field on the body surface. The ventral-posterior pocket (VPP) cutaneous nerve innervates the ventral-posterior portion of the pocket scratch receptive field (Fig. 1). Natural stimulation within the VPP nerve's receptive field evoked a pocket scratch reflex (Fig. 2A). Electrical stimulation of this nerve elicited robust pocket scratch reflexes (Fig. 2, B and C). 2. A single electrical pulse to the VPP nerve delivered at a voltage (greater than 5 V, 0.1 ms) that activated all the axons in the nerve was termed a "maximal" pulse. A single maximal pulse did not evoke a scratch motor response. It raised the excitability of the pocket scratch central pattern generator for several seconds, however. We revealed such excitability changes by applying maximal pulses to the VPP nerve at multisecond intervals (Figs. 5 and 6). When we delivered maximal pulses with interpulse intervals of less than or equal to 5 s, the first pulse produced no motor response and the second pulse evoked one or more cycles of pocket scratch. 3. A stimulus pulse applied to the VPP nerve was used as a probe for studying changes in the excitability of the pocket scratch CPG following scratch motor patterns. In a rested preparation, the stimulus pulse did not activate motor output. In contrast, the stimulus pulse evoked one or two cycles of pocket scratch activity if delivered within 2.5 s after the cessation of rhythmic pocket scratch motor activity (Figs. 7-9). These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the pocket scratch CPG has elevated excitability for seconds following the cessation of pocket scratch motor output. A single pulse applied to the VPP nerve evoked no response if delivered after the cessation of rostral scratch motor activity, however (Fig. 9D). 4. We used a train of maximal pulses to the VPP nerve to probe the form-specificity of the changes in the excitability following a rostral scratch motor pattern (Fig. 10). We set the stimulus parameters so that the train evoked one or two cycles of a pocket scratch motor pattern in a preparation that had rested for over 1 min.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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