Sensory modification of leech swimming: interactions between ventral stretch receptors and swim-related neurons

J Comp Physiol A. 2001 Sep;187(7):569-79. doi: 10.1007/s003590100229.


The neuronal circuits that generate the leech swimming rhythm comprise oscillatory interneurons that provide appropriately phased output to drive swim-related motoneurons. Within ganglia, these interneurons express three phases; between ganglia there exists a phase delay between homologs. Our earlier experiments revealed that stretch receptors embedded in the body wall participate in intersegmental coordination and setting intersegmental phases. To identify the basis for these sensory effects, we mapped interactions between a ventral stretch receptor and swim-related neurons. Connections between this receptor and motoneurons are weak and variable in quiescent preparations, but during fictive swimming stretch receptor activation modulates motoneuron oscillations, hence, these effects are polysynaptic, mediated by interneurons. We identified a strong, nonrectifying, and apparently direct electrical connection between the stretch receptor and oscillator neuron 33. The ventral stretch receptor also interacts with most of the other oscillatory interneurons, including inhibitory inputs to cells 28 and 208, excitatory input to the contralateral cell 115, and mixed input to the ipsilateral cell 115. These direct and indirect interactions can account for previously described effects of body-wall stretch on motoneuron activity. They also could mediate the previously described modification of intersegmental phase relationships by appropriately phased stretch receptor activation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Leeches / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle Spindles / physiology*
  • Perception
  • Swimming / physiology*