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J Neurobiol. 1996 Dec;31(4):512-32.

Premotor interneurons in generation of adaptive leg reflexes and voluntary movements in stick insects.

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Inst. Zoologie, Universität, Freiburg, Germany.


We investigated the role of local nonspiking interneurons involved in motor control of legs in the stick insects, Carausius morosus. In a preparation that allowed the animals to perform active leg movements such as adaptive tactile reflexes, proprioceptive reflexes, and walking, we gathered the following results. Almost all tested nonspiking interneurons that provide synaptic drive onto moto-neurons of the proximal leg muscles contribute to all of the motor programs underlying tactile reflexes and voluntary leg movements such as walking, searching, and rocking. Most of them are also involved in the generation of proprioceptive reflexes. All motor programs for coactivation, avoidance reflexes, resistance reflexes, and voluntary leg movements result from parallel pathways including nonspiking interneurons that support and others that oppose the motoneuronal activity. The contribution of a single interneuron to the different motor program is specific: it can be supporting for one motor program but opposing for the other. Even for the same motor program, for example, coactivation, the contribution of an individual interneuron can depend on the stimulus site from where the response is elicited. Our results support the idea that the different motor patterns for adaptive tactile reflexes, resistance reflexes, and voluntary leg movements emerge from a multifunctional neuronal circuit that is reorganized corresponding to the motor behavior performed. The actual motor pattern is then shaped by distributed information processing in parallel supporting and opposing pathways.

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