Modular Deconstruction Reveals the Dynamical and Physical Building Blocks of a Locomotion Motor Program.

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The neural substrates of motor programs are only well understood for small, dedicated circuits. Here we investigate how a motor program is constructed within a large network. We imaged populations of neurons in the Aplysia pedal ganglion during execution of a locomotion motor program. We found that the program was built from a very small number of dynamical building blocks, including both neural ensembles and low-dimensional rotational dynamics. These map onto physically discrete regions of the ganglion, so that the motor program has a corresponding modular organization in both dynamical and physical space. Using this dynamic map, we identify the population potentially implementing the rhythmic pattern generator and find that its activity physically traces a looped trajectory, recapitulating its low-dimensional rotational dynamics. Our results suggest that, even in simple invertebrates, neural motor programs are implemented by large, distributed networks containing multiple dynamical systems.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-318
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2015

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