Heartbeat control in leeches. II. Fictive motor pattern

J Neurophysiol. 2004 Jan;91(1):397-409. doi: 10.1152/jn.00528.2003. Epub 2003 Sep 17.


The rhythmic beating of the tube-like hearts in the medicinal leech is driven and coordinated by rhythmic activity in segmental heart motor neurons. The motor neurons are controlled by rhythmic inhibitory input from a network of heart interneurons that compose the heartbeat central pattern generator. In the preceding paper, we described the constriction pattern of the hearts in quiescent intact animals and showed that one heart constricts in a rear-to-front wave (peristaltic coordination mode), while the other heart constricts in near unison over its length (synchronous coordination mode) and that they regularly switch coordination modes. Here we analyze intersegmental and side-to-side-coordination of the fictive motor pattern for heartbeat in denervated nerve cords. We show that the intersegmental phase relations among heart motor neurons in both coordination modes are independent of heartbeat period. This finding enables us to combine data from different experiments to form a detailed analysis of the relative phases, duty cycle, and intraburst spike frequency of the bursts of the segmental heart motor neurons. The fictive motor pattern and the constriction pattern seen in intact leeches closely match in their intersegmental and side-to-side coordination, indicating that sensory feedback is not necessary for properly phased intersegmental coordination. Moreover, the regular switches in coordination mode of the fictive motor pattern mimic those seen in intact animals indicating that these switches likely arise by a central mechanism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Autonomic Denervation / methods
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Functional Laterality
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / physiology
  • Heart / innervation
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Heart Conduction System / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Leeches
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Myocardial Contraction*
  • Neural Inhibition
  • Periodicity*
  • Time Factors