The nudibranch mollusc, Dendronotus iris, swims by rhythmically flexing its body from left to right. We identified a bilaterally represented interneuron, Si3, that provides strong excitatory drive to the previously identified Si2, forming a half-center oscillator, which functions as the central pattern generator (CPG) underlying swimming. As with Si2, Si3 inhibited its contralateral counterpart and exhibited rhythmic bursts in left-right alternation during the swim motor pattern. Si3 burst almost synchronously with the contralateral Si2 and was coactive with the efferent impulse activity in the contralateral body wall nerve. Perturbation of bursting in either Si3 or Si2 by current injection halted or phase-shifted the swim motor pattern, suggesting that they are both critical CPG members. Neither Si2 nor Si3 exhibited endogenous bursting properties when activated alone; activation of all four neurons was necessary to initiate and maintain the swim motor pattern. Si3 made a strong excitatory synapse onto the contralateral Si2 to which it is also electrically coupled. When Si3 was firing tonically but not exhibiting bursting, artificial enhancement of the Si3-to-Si2 synapse using dynamic clamp caused all four neurons to burst. In contrast, negation of the Si3-to-Si2 synapse by dynamic clamp blocked ongoing swim motor patterns. Together, these results suggest that the Dendronotus swim CPG is organized as a “twisted” half-center oscillator in which each “half” is composed of two excitatory-coupled neurons from both sides of the brain, each of which inhibits its contralateral counterpart. Consisting of only four neurons, this is perhaps the simplest known network oscillator for locomotion.
- virtual pharmacology
- neural circuit
- identified neuron
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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