Simple cellular and network control principles govern complex patterns of motor behavior

Alexander Kozlov, Mikael Huss, Anders Lansner, Jeanette Hellgren Kotaleski, Sten Grillner
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2009 November 24, 106 (47): 20027-32
The vertebrate central nervous system is organized in modules that independently execute sophisticated tasks. Such modules are flexibly controlled and operate with a considerable degree of autonomy. One example is locomotion generated by spinal central pattern generator networks (CPGs) that shape the detailed motor output. The level of activity is controlled from brainstem locomotor command centers, which in turn, are under the control of the basal ganglia. By using a biophysically detailed, full-scale computational model of the lamprey CPG (10,000 neurons) and its brainstem/forebrain control, we demonstrate general control principles that can adapt the network to different demands. Forward or backward locomotion and steering can be flexibly controlled by local synaptic effects limited to only the very rostral part of the network. Variability in response properties within each neuronal population is an essential feature and assures a constant phase delay along the cord for different locomotor speeds.

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