Cellular basis for singing motor pattern generation in the field cricket (Gryllus bimaculatus DeGeer)


  • This study was supported by the BBSRC (grant no. BB/F008783/1); additional support was given by The Isaac Newton Trust (Trinity College, Cambridge, U.K.) and the Department of Zoology (University of Cambridge, U.K.).


Berthold Hedwig, Department of Zoology,

Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ,

United Kingdom. Tel: (+44) 01223-336603;

Fax: (+44) 01223-336676;

E-mail: bh202@cam.ac.uk


The singing behavior of male crickets allows analyzing a central pattern generator (CPG) that was shaped by sexual selection for reliable production of species-specific communication signals. After localizing the essential ganglia for singing in Gryllus bimaculatus, we now studied the calling song CPG at the cellular level. Fictive singing was initiated by pharmacological brain stimulation. The motor pattern underlying syllables and chirps was recorded as alternating spike bursts of wing-opener and wing-closer motoneurons in a truncated wing nerve; it precisely reflected the natural calling song. During fictive singing, we intracellularly recorded and stained interneurons in thoracic and abdominal ganglia and tested their impact on the song pattern by intracellular current injections. We identified three interneurons of the metathoracic and first unfused abdominal ganglion that rhythmically de- and hyperpolarized in phase with the syllable pattern and spiked strictly before the wing-opener motoneurons. Depolarizing current injection in two of these opener interneurons caused additional rhythmic singing activity, which reliably reset the ongoing chirp rhythm. The closely intermeshing arborizations of the singing interneurons revealed the dorsal midline neuropiles of the metathoracic and three most anterior abdominal neuromeres as the anatomical location of singing pattern generation. In the same neuropiles, we also recorded several closer interneurons that rhythmically hyper- and depolarized in the syllable rhythm and spiked strictly before the wing-closer motoneurons. Some of them received pronounced inhibition at the beginning of each chirp. Hyperpolarizing current injection in the dendrite revealed postinhibitory rebound depolarization as one functional mechanism of central pattern generation in singing crickets.