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J Exp Biol. 1997;200(Pt 6):963-74.

Maintenance of motor pattern phase relationships in the ventilatory system of the crab


The central pattern generator responsible for the gill ventilation rhythm in the shore crab Carcinus maenas can produce a functional motor pattern over a large (eightfold) range of cycle frequencies. One way to continue to generate a functional motor pattern over such a large frequency range would be to maintain the relative timing (phase) of the motor pattern as cycle frequency changes. This hypothesis was tested by measuring the phase of eight events in the motor pattern from extracellular recordings at different rhythm frequencies. The motor pattern was found to maintain relatively constant phase relationships among the various motor bursts in this rhythm over a large (sevenfold) range of cycle frequencies, although two phase-maintaining subgroups could be distinguished. Underlying this phase maintenance is a corresponding change in the time delay between events in the motor pattern ranging from 470 to 1800 ms over a sevenfold (300­2100 ms) change in cycle period. Intracellular recordings from ventilatory neurons indicate that there is very little change in the membrane potential oscillation in the motor neurons with changes in cycle frequency. However, recordings from nonspiking interneurons in the ventilatory central pattern generator reveal that the rate of change of the membrane potential oscillation of these neurons varies in proportion to changes in cycle frequency. The strict biomechanical requirements for efficient pumping by the gill bailer, and the fact that work is performed in all phases of the motor pattern, may require that this motor pattern maintain phase at all rhythm frequencies.

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