The respiratory central pattern generator of Lymnaea: a model, measured and malleable

Respir Physiol. 2000 Sep;122(2-3):197-207. doi: 10.1016/s0034-5687(00)00159-6.


Great progress has been made, and continues to be made in our understanding of the neuronal mechanisms underlying respiration in a wide variety of model systems. The central pattern generator (CPG) controlling aerial respiration in the pond-snail Lymnaea is a particularly well-studied model. Using in vitro and semi-intact preparations, the neural circuitry that controls aerial respiration has been characterized as consisting of three identified interneurons. Furthermore, insight has been gained into the behavioural, cellular and synaptic mechanisms by which this circuit controls respiratory rhythmogenesis. It has also been demonstrated that aerial respiratory behaviour can be modified both by experience and by environmental factors. Studies have shown that, in a behavioural hierarchy, respiration is subservient to the whole-body withdrawal response that respiratory behaviour can be modified through operant conditioning, and that respiratory behaviour is altered by hypoxia. Through research on the Lymnaea respiratory CPG we are coming to a better understanding of the construction and malleability of a CPG network. The malleability of this CPG is of particular interest. No longer can neuronal networks underlying respiratory behaviour be considered hard-wired; they have inherent plasticity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Lymnaea / physiology*
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena*
  • Respiratory System / innervation*