Neural control exploits changing mechanical advantage and context dependence to generate different feeding responses in Aplysia

Biol Cybern. 2004 Nov;91(5):333-45. doi: 10.1007/s00422-004-0517-z. Epub 2004 Oct 27.


How does neural control reflect changes in mechanical advantage and muscle function? In the Aplysia feeding system a protractor muscle's mechanical advantage decreases as it moves the structure that grasps food (the radula/odontophore) in an anterior direction. In contrast, as the radula/odontophore is moved forward, the jaw musculature's mechanical advantage shifts so that it may act to assist forward movement of the radula/odontophore instead of pushing it posteriorly. To test whether the jaw musculature's context-dependent function can compensate for the falling mechanical advantage of the protractor muscle, we created a kinetic model of Aplysia's feeding apparatus. During biting, the model predicts that the reduction of the force in the protractor muscle I2 will prevent it from overcoming passive forces that resist the large anterior radula/odontophore displacements observed during biting. To produce protractions of the magnitude observed during biting behaviors, the nervous system could increase I2's contractile strength by neuromodulating I2, or it could recruit the I1/I3 jaw muscle complex. Driving the kinetic model with in vivo EMG and ENG predicts that, during biting, early activation of the context-dependent jaw muscle I1/I3 may assist in moving the radula/odontophore anteriorly during the final phase of protraction. In contrast, during swallowing, later activation of I1/I3 causes it to act purely as a retractor. Shifting the timing of onset of I1/I3 activation allows the nervous system to use a mechanical equilibrium point that allows I1/I3 to act as a protractor rather than an equilibrium point that allows I1/I3 to act as a retractor. This use of equilibrium points may be similar to that proposed for vertebrate control of movement.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aplysia / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / cytology
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / physiology
  • Jaw / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / instrumentation
  • Models, Biological
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscles / physiology