Multifunctional pattern-generating circuits

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2008;31:271-94. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.31.060407.125552.


The ability of distinct anatomical circuits to generate multiple behavioral patterns is widespread among vertebrate and invertebrate species. These multifunctional neuronal circuits are the result of multistable neural dynamics and modular organization. The evidence suggests multifunctional circuits can be classified by distinct architectures, yet the activity patterns of individual neurons involved in more than one behavior can vary dramatically. Several mechanisms, including sensory input, the parallel activity of projection neurons, neuromodulation, and biomechanics, are responsible for the switching between patterns. Recent advances in both analytical and experimental tools have aided the study of these complex circuits.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior / physiology
  • Central Nervous System / anatomy & histology
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology