Visualization of ensemble activity patterns of mechanosensory afferents in the cricket cercal sensory system with calcium imaging

J Neurobiol. 2006 Feb 15;66(3):293-307. doi: 10.1002/neu.20220.


The cercal sensory system of the cricket mediates the detection and analysis of low velocity air currents in the animal's immediate environment, and is implemented around an internal representation of air current direction that demonstrates the essential features of a continuous neural map. Previous neurophysiological and anatomical studies have yielded predictions of the global spatio-temporal patterns of activity that should be evoked in the sensory afferent map by air current stimuli of different directions. We tested those predictions by direct visualization of ensemble afferent activity patterns using Ca2+ -sensitive indicators. The AM ester of the fluorescent Ca2+ indicator (Oregon Green 488 BAPTA-1 AM) was injected under the sheath of a cercal sensory nerve containing all of the mechanosensory afferent axons from one cercus. Optical signals were recorded with a digital intensified CCD camera. Control experiments using direct electrical stimulation of stained and unstained nerves demonstrated that the observed Ca2+ signals within the terminal abdominal ganglion (TAG) were due to activation of the dye-loaded sensory afferent neurons. To visualize the spatial patterns of air-current-evoked ensemble activity, unidirectional air currents were applied repeatedly from eight different directions, and the optically recorded responses from each direction were averaged. The dispersion of the optical signals by the ganglion limited the spatial resolution with which these ensemble afferent activity patterns could be observed. However, resolution was adequate to demonstrate that different directional stimuli induced different spatial patterns of Ca2+ elevation in the terminal arbors of afferents within the TAG. These coarsely- resolved, optically-recorded patterns were consistent with the anatomy-based predictions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Air Movements
  • Animals
  • Calcium
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / anatomy & histology
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / physiology*
  • Ganglia, Sensory / anatomy & histology
  • Ganglia, Sensory / physiology
  • Gryllidae / physiology*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Microinjections
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Calcium