State dependence of spike timing and neuronal function in a motor pattern generating network

J Neurosci. 2007 Oct 3;27(40):10818-31. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1806-07.2007.


When sustained firing of a neuron is similar in different types of motor programs, its role in the generation of these programs is often similar. We investigated whether this is also the case for neurons involved in phase transition. In the Aplysia feeding central pattern generator (CPG), identified interneuron B64 starts firing at the transition between the protraction and the retraction phases of all types of motor programs, and its firing is sustained during the retraction phase. It was thought that B64 functions as a protraction terminator as it provides strong inhibitory input to protraction interneurons and motoneurons. Furthermore, premature activation of B64 can lead to premature termination of the protraction phase. Indeed, as we show here, B64 can terminate the protraction phase regardless of the type of motor program. However, B64 actually only functions as a protraction terminator in ingestive-like but not in egestive-like programs. This differential role of B64 results from a differential timing of the initiation of B64 spiking in the two types of programs. In turn, this differential timing of the initiation of B64 firing is determined by the internal state of the CPG. Thus, this study indicates the importance of the timing of initiation of firing in determining the functional role of a neuron and demonstrates that this role depends on the activity-dependent state of the network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Aplysia
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Functional Laterality
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / cytology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Interneurons / classification
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Reaction Time / physiology*