Chapter

The Heartbeat Neural Control System of the Leech

Ronald L. Calabrese

in Handbook of Brain Microcircuits

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780195389883
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199965137 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/med/9780195389883.003.0046
The Heartbeat Neural Control System of the Leech

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In medicinal leeches (Hirudo sp.), heartbeat is an automatic function; it is controlled by a well-studied central pattern generator that has proven to be a useful model system for understanding how complex rhythmic motor acts are programmed and controlled by the central nervous system. The basic timing in the network is set by a two linked half-center oscillators each comprising a pair of mutually inhibitory interneurons. Switch interneurons link the oscillatory kernel with premotor interneurons and program two alternating peristaltic and synchronous patterns of segmental motor neuron activity that in turn program similarly coordinated patterns of constriction in the two tubular hearts. The cellular mechanisms of operation of this pattern generator inform our understanding of the more complex motor networks of vertebrates.

Chapter.  2030 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Development of the Nervous System

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