Abstract

The swimming movement of the leech is produced by an ensemble of bilaterally symmetric, rhythmically active pairs of motor neurons present in each segmental ganglion of the ventral nerve cord. These motor neurons innervate the longitudinal muscles in dorsal or ventral sectors of the segmental body wall. Their duty cycles are phase-locked in a manner such that the dorsal and ventral body wall sectors of any given segment undergo an antiphasic contractile rhythm and that the contractile rhythms of different segments form a rostrocaudal phase progression. This activity rhythm is imposed on the motor neurons by a central swim oscillator, of which four bilaterally symmetric pairs of interneurons present in each segmental ganglion appear to constitute the major component. These interneurons are linked intra- and intersegmentally via inhibitory connections to form a segmentally iterated and inter-segmentally concatenated cyclic neuronal network. The network appears to owe its oscillatory activity pattern to the mechanism of recurrent cyclic inhibition.

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