The cellular and network basis for most vertebrate locomotor central pattern generators (CPGs) is incompletely characterized, but organizational models based on known CPG architectures have been proposed. Segmental models propose that each spinal segment contains a circuit that controls local coordination and sends longer projections to coordinate activity between segments. Unsegmented/continuous models propose that patterned motor output is driven by gradients of neurons and synapses that do not have segmental boundaries. We tested these ideas in the larval zebrafish, an animal that swims in discrete episodes, each of which is composed of coordinated motor bursts that progress rostrocaudally and alternate from side to side. We perturbed the spinal cord using spinal transections or strychnine application and measured the effect on fictive motor output. Spinal transections eliminated episode structure, and reduced both rostrocaudal and side-to-side coordination. Preparations with fewer intact segments were more severely affected, and preparations consisting of midbody and caudal segments were more severely affected than those consisting of rostral segments. In reduced preparations with the same number of intact spinal segments, side-to-side coordination was more severely disrupted than rostrocaudal coordination. Reducing glycine receptor signaling with strychnine reversibly disrupted both rostrocaudal and side-to-side coordination in spinalized larvae without disrupting episodic structure. Both spinal transection and strychnine decreased the stability of the motor rhythm, but this effect was not causal in reducing coordination. These results are inconsistent with a segmented model of the spinal cord and are better explained by a continuous model in which motor neuron coordination is controlled by segment-spanning microcircuits.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2014 Wiggin et al.