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American Physiological Society

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Journal of Neurophysiology

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The spinal cord has been well established as the site of generation of the locomotor rhythm in vertebrates, but studies have suggested that the caudal hindbrain in larval fish and amphibians can also generate locomotor rhythms. Here, we investigated whether the caudal hindbrain of the adult lamprey (Petromyzon marinus and Ichthyomyzon unicuspis) has the ability to generate the swimming rhythm. The hindbrain-spinal cord transition zone of the lamprey contains a bilateral column of somatic motoneurons that project via the spino-occipital (S-O) nerves to several muscles of the head. In the brainstem-spinal cord-muscle preparation, these muscles were found to burst and contract rhythmically with a left-right alternation when swimming activity was evoked with a brief electrical stimulation of the spinal cord. In the absence of muscles, the isolated brainstem-spinal cord preparation also produced alternating left-right bursts in S-O nerves (i.e., fictive swimming), and the S-O nerve bursts preceded the bursts occurring in the first ipsilateral spinal ventral root. After physical isolation of the S-O region using transverse cuts of the nervous system, the S-O nerves still exhibited rhythmic bursting with left-right alternation when glutamate was added to the bathing solution. We conclude that the S-O region of the lamprey contains a swimming rhythm generator that produces the leading motor nerve bursts of each swimming cycle, which then propagate down the spinal cord to produce forward swimming. The S-O region of the hindbrain-spinal cord transition zone may play a role in regulating speed, turning, and head orientation during swimming in lamprey.


Accepted version. Journal of Neurophysiology, Vol. 119, No 5 (May 2018): 1681-1692. DOI. © 2018 the American Physiological Society. Used with permission.

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