Fifty years of a command neuron: the neurobiology of escape behavior in the crayfish

Trends Neurosci. 1999 Apr;22(4):153-61. doi: 10.1016/s0166-2236(98)01340-x.


Fifty years ago C.A.G. Wiersma established that the giant axons of the crayfish nerve cord drive tail-flip escape responses. The circuitry that includes these giant neurons has now become one of the best-understood neural circuits in the animal kingdom. Although it controls a specialized behavior of a relatively simple animal, this circuitry has provided insights that are of general neurobiological interest concerning matters as diverse as the identity of the neural substrates involved in making behavioral decisions, the cellular bases of learning, subcellular neuronal computation, voltage-gated electrical synaptic transmission and modification of neuromodulator actions that result from social experience. This work illustrates the value of studying a circuit of moderate, but tractable, complexity and known behavioral function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / physiology
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Astacoidea / physiology*
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology
  • Axons / physiology
  • Biological Evolution
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Escape Reaction / physiology*
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / physiology
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Social Environment
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Tail / physiology