Cyclic Postural Behavior in the Crayfish, Procambarus Clarkii: Properties of the Pattern‐initiating Network

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Crayfish exhibit complex cyclical adjustments in abdominal posture during certain forms of backward walking. An isolated nerve cord preparation was used to investigate the properties of the interneurons which direct this alternation of abdominal flexion and extension. The command function for this cyclic postural behavior appears to be the domain of a distributed network of multiple pattern‐initiating interneurons: each interneuron may be viewed as a command element within a command system. The cyclic pattern may be elicited by stimulation of small axon bundles pulled from the ventrolateral margins of any of the abdominal connectives. As few as one stimulus pulse to the axon bundle can elicit a single cycle of patterned output, although more pulses are generally necessary. This suggests some convergence or amplification step in the pattern‐initiating interneurons. The amplification may be accomplished by several pattern‐initiating interneurons that are coupled to one another and converge on pattern generating circuits in each ganglion. Evidence supporting this interpretation is presented. Experiments involving resection of the cord reveal that the pattern‐initiating signals transfer laterally across all of the abdominal ganglia, but the network contains a bias for descending signal conduction once a lateral transfer is made. This finding agrees with other results. For example, recordings from pattern‐initiating axon bundles at rostral and caudal locations in the abdominal nerve cord show several descending but only one ascending unit activated during cyclic pattern generation. We also show that an isolated ganglion is capable of producing the cyclic motor program, although the outputs are much weaker than those elicited in the intact abdominal cord. Therefore, the pattern‐initiating system is both central and distributed.