The aquatic oligochaete, Lumbriculus variegatus (Lumbriculidae), undergoes a rapid regenerative transformation of its neural circuits following body fragmentation. This type of nervous system plasticity, called neural morphallaxis, involves the remodeling of the giant fiber pathways that mediate rapid head and tail withdrawal behaviors. Extra- and intracellular electrophysiological recordings demonstrated that changes in cellular properties and synaptic connections underlie neurobehavioral plasticity during morphallaxis. Sensory-to-giant interneuron connections, undetectable prior to body injury, emerged within hours of segment amputation. The appearance of functional synaptic transmission was followed by interneuron activation, coupling of giant fiber spiking to motor outputs and overt segmental shortening. The onset of morphallactic plasticity varied along the body axis and emerged more rapidly in segments closer to regions of sensory field overlap between the two giant fiber pathways. The medial and lateral giant fibers were simultaneously activated during a transient phase of network remodeling. Thus, synaptic plasticity at sensory-to-giant interneuron connections mediates escape circuit morphallaxis in this regenerating annelid worm.
Copyright © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.