University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Neurobiology; Alkema Lab; Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience Program

Publication Date

2020-06-05

Document Type

Article

Disciplines

Behavioral Neurobiology

Abstract

Complex animal behaviors arise from a flexible combination of stereotyped motor primitives. Here we use the escape responses of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to study how a nervous system dynamically explores the action space. The initiation of the escape responses is predictable: the animal moves away from a potential threat, a mechanical or thermal stimulus. But the motor sequence and the timing that follow are variable. We report that a feedforward excitation between neurons encoding distinct motor states underlies robust motor sequence generation, while mutual inhibition between these neurons controls the flexibility of timing in a motor sequence. Electrical synapses contribute to feedforward coupling whereas glutamatergic synapses contribute to inhibition. We conclude that C. elegans generates robust and flexible motor sequences by combining an excitatory coupling and a winner-take-all operation via mutual inhibition between motor modules.

Keywords

C. elegans, neuroscience

Rights and Permissions

© 2020, Wang et al. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

DOI of Published Version

10.7554/eLife.56942

Source

Wang Y, Zhang X, Xin Q, Hung W, Florman J, Huo J, Xu T, Xie Y, Alkema MJ, Zhen M, Wen Q. Flexible motor sequence generation during stereotyped escape responses. Elife. 2020 Jun 5;9:e56942. doi: 10.7554/eLife.56942. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32501216. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

eLife

PubMed ID

32501216

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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