Neuromodulation of central pattern generators in invertebrates and vertebrates

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2006 Dec;16(6):604-14. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2006.10.007. Epub 2006 Nov 7.


Central pattern generators are subject to extensive modulation that generates flexibility in the rhythmic outputs of these neural networks. The effects of neuromodulators interact with one another, and modulatory neurons are themselves often subject to modulation, enabling both higher order control and indirect interactions among central pattern generators. In addition, modulators often directly mediate the interactions between functionally related central pattern generators. In systems such as the vertebrate respiratory central pattern generator, multiple pacemaker types interact to produce rhythmic output. Modulators can then alter the relative contributions of the different pacemakers, leading to substantial changes in motor output and hence to different behaviors. Surprisingly, substantial changes in some aspects of the circuitry of a central pattern generator, such as a several-fold increase in synaptic strength, can sometimes have little effect on the output of the CPG, whereas other changes have profound effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Clocks / physiology
  • Central Nervous System / anatomy & histology
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Invertebrates / anatomy & histology
  • Invertebrates / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Periodicity
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Vertebrates / anatomy & histology
  • Vertebrates / physiology*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents