Metamodulation of the crayfish escape circuit

Brain Behav Evol. 2002;60(6):360-9. doi: 10.1159/000067789.


Neuromodulation provides a means of changing the excitability of neurons or the effect of synapses, and so extends the performance range of neural circuits. Metamodulation occurs when the neuromodulatory effect is itself modulated, often in response to a change in the behavioral state of the animal. The well-studied neural circuit that mediates escape in the crayfish is modulated by serotonin, and this modulation is subject to two forms of metamodulation. First, the serotonergic modulation of the Lateral Giant (LG) command neuron for escape depends on the pattern of exposure of the cell to serotonin. High and low concentrations, and rapid and slow exposures each produce opposite modulatory effects on sensory-evoked EPSPs in LG. In addition, brief exposures produce transient modulatory effects, whereas longer exposures produce long-term facilitation. These different patterns of exposure may result from serotonin neurotransmission, paracrine transmission, and hormonal release, all of which occur in the vicinity of LG. The second form of metamodulation enables serotonergic modulation to track slow changes in the social status of the crayfish. Slowly applied serotonin facilitates LG's response in socially isolated crayfish and in new dominant and subordinate animals. Facilitation is retained in the dominant animal during two weeks of continuous pairing of the animals, but facilitation gradually changes to inhibition in the subordinate crayfish. These and related changes in serotonin modulation appear to result from changes in the population of serotonin receptors that mediate the modulatory effects in LG. Whereas the exposure-dependent metamodulation enables rapid changes in serotonergic modulation of LG to occur, the status-dependent metamodulation enables serotonergic modulation of LG to track the slow maturation of social relationships.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Astacoidea / anatomy & histology
  • Astacoidea / physiology*
  • Dominance-Subordination
  • Escape Reaction / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / anatomy & histology
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / physiology
  • Invertebrate Hormones / physiology
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neurons / diagnostic imaging
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology*
  • Paracrine Communication / physiology
  • Serotonin / physiology*
  • Social Environment
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Ultrasonography


  • Invertebrate Hormones
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Serotonin