Institution: Siena College, Loudonville, New York
Amine neurotransmitters play an important role in controlling motor behavior in many animals, including the medicinal leech (Hirudo medicinalis). Previous studies have established serotonin as an important modulator of swimming behavior. Serotonin levels are elevated in the blood of frequently swimming leeches and bath application of serotonin to isolated nerve cord preparations evokes fictive swimming. Serotonin alters the intrinsic electrical properties of interneurons and motor neurons involved in generating swimming behavior. In particular, serotonin increases the amplitude, but shortens the duration, of postinhibitory rebound (PIR) responses in cell DE-3, a motor neuron that innervates the dorsal longitudinal muscle cells of the body wall. More recent studies have implicated dopamine in the suppression of swimming behavior and the initiation of crawling. Here we show that bath application of dopamine to isolated leech ganglia induces rhythmic oscillatory activity in cell DE-3. The long cycle period of these oscillations is consistent with crawling, but not swimming behavior. Dopamine increases the amplitude of PIR responses in cell DE-3, but unlike serotonin does not decrease its duration. These effects provide further support for the hypothesis that dopamine promotes crawling behavior in the leech.