Flexible motor sequence generation during stereotyped escape responses
Alkema, Mark J.
UMass Chan AffiliationsGraduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience Program
Department of Neurobiology
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AbstractComplex animal behaviors arise from a flexible combination of stereotyped motor primitives. Here we use the escape responses of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to study how a nervous system dynamically explores the action space. The initiation of the escape responses is predictable: the animal moves away from a potential threat, a mechanical or thermal stimulus. But the motor sequence and the timing that follow are variable. We report that a feedforward excitation between neurons encoding distinct motor states underlies robust motor sequence generation, while mutual inhibition between these neurons controls the flexibility of timing in a motor sequence. Electrical synapses contribute to feedforward coupling whereas glutamatergic synapses contribute to inhibition. We conclude that C. elegans generates robust and flexible motor sequences by combining an excitatory coupling and a winner-take-all operation via mutual inhibition between motor modules.
Wang Y, Zhang X, Xin Q, Hung W, Florman J, Huo J, Xu T, Xie Y, Alkema MJ, Zhen M, Wen Q. Flexible motor sequence generation during stereotyped escape responses. Elife. 2020 Jun 5;9:e56942. doi: 10.7554/eLife.56942. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32501216. Link to article on publisher's site