Control of Octopus Arm Extension by a Peripheral Motor Program

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Science  07 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5536, pp. 1845-1848
DOI: 10.1126/science.1060976

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For goal-directed arm movements, the nervous system generates a sequence of motor commands that bring the arm toward the target. Control of the octopus arm is especially complex because the arm can be moved in any direction, with a virtually infinite number of degrees of freedom. Here we show that arm extensions can be evoked mechanically or electrically in arms whose connection with the brain has been severed. These extensions show kinematic features that are almost identical to normal behavior, suggesting that the basic motor program for voluntary movement is embedded within the neural circuitry of the arm itself. Such peripheral motor programs represent considerable simplification in the motor control of this highly redundant appendage.

  • * Present address: Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine Stanford, CA 94305, USA.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed: E-mail: bennyh{at}

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