A Caltech Library Service

The central nervous control of walking in the locust, Schistocerca Americana


Ryckebusch, Sylvie Adrienne (1994) The central nervous control of walking in the locust, Schistocerca Americana. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/1aey-8096.


Rhythmic motor behaviors in all animals appear to be under the control of "central pattern generator" circuits, neural circuits which can produce output patterns appropriate for behavior even when isolated from their normal peripheral inputs. Insects have been a useful model system in which to study the control of legged terrestrial locomotion. Much is known about walking in insects at the behavioral level, but to date there has been no clear demonstration that a central pattern generator for walking exists. The focus of this thesis is to explore the central neural basis for locomotion in the locust, Schistocerca americana.

Rhythmic motor patterns could be evoked in leg motor neurons of isolated thoracic ganglia of locusts by the muscarinic agonist pilocarpine. These motor patterns would be appropriate for the movement of single legs during walking. Rhythmic patterns could be evoked in all three thoracic ganglia, but the segmental rhythms differed in their sensitivities to pilocarpine, their frequencies, and the phase relationships of motor neuron antagonists. These different patterns could be generated by a simple adaptable model circuit, which was both simulated and implemented in VLSI hardware. The intersegmental coordination of leg motor rhythms was then examined in preparations of isolated chains of thoracic ganglia. Correlations between motor patterns in different thoracic ganglia indicated that central coupling between segmental pattern generators is likely to contribute to the coordination of the legs during walking.

The work described here clearly demonstrates that segmental pattern generators for walking exist in insects. The pattern generators produce motor outputs which are likely to contribute to the coordination of the joints of a limb, as well as the coordination of different limbs. These studies lay the groundwork for further studies to determine the relative contributions of central and sensory neural mechanisms to terrestrial walking.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Computation and Neural Systems
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Major Option:Computation and Neural Systems
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Mead, Carver (advisor)
  • Laurent, Gilles J. (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:2 March 1994
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:04112013-092807415
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7609
Deposited By: Dan Anguka
Deposited On:11 Apr 2013 16:50
Last Modified:09 Nov 2022 19:20

Thesis Files

PDF - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page