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Keywords:

  • crustacean;
  • gap junctions;
  • neurons;
  • afferent

Abstract

The lateral giant (LG) escape circuit of crayfish mediates a coordinated escape triggered by strong attack to the abdomen. The LG circuit is one of the best understood of small systems, but models of the circuit have mostly been limited to simple ball-and-stick representations, which ignore anatomical details of contacts between circuit elements. Many of the these contacts are electrical; here we use differential dye coupling, a technique which could help reveal connection patterns in many neural circuits, to reveal in detail the circuit within the terminal abdominal ganglion. Sensory input from the tailfan forms a somatotopic map on the projecting LG dendrites, which together with interafferent coupling mediates a lateral excitatory network that selectively amplifies strong, phasic, converging input to LG. Mechanosensory interneurons contact LG at sites distinct from the primary afferents and so maximize their summated effect on LG. Motor neurons and premotor interneurons are excited near the initial segments of the LGs and innervate muscles for generating uropod flaring and telson flexion. Previous research has shown that spatial patterns of input are important for signal integration in LG; this map of electrical contact points will help us to understand synaptic processing in this system. J. Comp. Neurol. 466:1–13, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.