Longitudinal neuronal organization and coordination in a simple vertebrate: a continuous, semi-quantitative computer model of the central pattern generator for swimming in young frog tadpoles

J Comput Neurosci. 2009 Oct;27(2):291-308. doi: 10.1007/s10827-009-0143-9. Epub 2009 Mar 14.


When frog tadpoles hatch their swimming requires co-ordinated contractions of trunk muscles, driven by motoneurons and controlled by a Central Pattern Generator (CPG). To study this co-ordination we used a 3.5 mm long population model of the young tadpole CPG with continuous distributions of neurons and axon lengths as estimated anatomically. We found that: (1) alternating swimming-type activity fails to self-sustain unless some excitatory interneurons have ascending axons, (2) a rostro-caudal (R-C) gradient in the distribution of excitatory premotor interneurons with short axons is required to obtain the R-C gradient in excitation and resulting progression of motoneuron firing necessary for forward swimming, (3) R-C delays in motoneuron firing decrease if excitatory motoneuron to premotor interneuron synapses are present, (4) these feedback connections and the electrical synapses between motoneurons synchronise motoneuron discharges locally, (5) the above findings are independent of the detailed membrane properties of neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Anura / physiology*
  • Axons / physiology
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Feedback / physiology
  • Gap Junctions / physiology
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Larva / physiology*
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Swimming / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Time Factors