Tight or Loose Coupling Between Components of the Feeding Neuromusculature of Aplysia?
Journal of Neurophysiology
Zhurov, Yuriy, Klaudiusz R. Weiss, and Vladimir Brezina. Tight or loose coupling between components of the feeding neuromusculature of Aplysia? . Like other complex behaviors, the cyclical, rhythmic consummatory feeding behaviors of Aplysia-biting, swallowing, and rejection of unsuitable food-are produced by a complex neuromuscular system: the animal's buccal mass, with numerous pairs of antagonistic muscles, controlled by the firing of numerous motor neurons, all driven by the motor programs
... he motor programs of a central pattern generator (CPG) in the buccal ganglia. In such a complex neuromuscular system, it has always been assumed that the activities of the various components must necessarily be tightly coupled and coordinated if successful functional behavior is to be produced. However, we have recently found that the CPG generates extremely variable motor programs from one cycle to the next, and so very variable motor neuron firing patterns and contractions of individual muscles. Here we show that this variability extends even to higher-level parameters of the operation of the neuromuscular system such as the coordination between entire antagonistic subsystems within the buccal neuromusculature. In motor programs elicited by stimulation of the esophageal nerve, we have studied the relationship between the contractions of the accessory radula closer (ARC) muscle, and the firing patterns of its motor neurons B15 and B16, with those of its antagonist, the radula opener (I7) muscle, and its motor neuron B48. There are two separate B15/B16-ARC subsystems, one on each side of the animal, and these are indeed very tightly coupled. Tight coupling can, therefore, be achieved in this neuromuscular system where required. Yet there is essentially no coupling at all between the contractions of the ARC muscles and those of the antagonistic radula opener muscle. We interpret this result in terms of a hypothesis that ascribes a higher-order benefit to such loose coupling in the neuromusculature. The variability, emerging in the successive feeding movements made by the animal, diversifies the range of movements and thereby implements a trial-and-error search through the space of movements that might be successful, an optimal strategy for the animal in an unknown, rapidly changing feeding environment. Address for reprint requests and other correspondence: V. Brezina,