Altered excitability of the crayfish lateral giant escape reflex during agonistic encounters

F B Krasne, A Shamsian, R Kulkarni
Journal of Neuroscience 1997 January 15, 17 (2): 709-16
The excitability of the lateral giant escape reflex of socially dominant and submissive crayfish at rest and during agonistic encounters was studied and compared. During agonistic encounters the excitability of the lateral giant reflex falls, substantially in subordinates and slightly in dominants, whereas at rest excitability seems to be independent of social status. Thus, paradoxically, socially dominant animals are more likely to execute lateral giant escape reactions during interactions than are subordinates. It is suggested that subordinates under threat of attack tend to engage circuitry involved in flexible, nonreflex ("voluntary") types of escape not mediated by giant neurons and therefore inhibit giant neuron-mediated reflex circuitry that produces prompt, but less adaptive, responses. In contrast, dominants go about their business, mainly ignoring their conspecifics and relying on reflex escape to protect them from unexpected attack. Consistent with this view, escape of subordinates during agonistic encounters is mediated by nongiant, not reflex, circuitry. These observations and their interpretation suggest a possible functional role for recently described social status-dependent serotonergic modulation of the lateral giant reflex, which is inhibitory in sign in subordinates and facilitatory in dominants.


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