Ensembles of neuronal networks and sensory pathways participate in controlling the kinematic and dynamic parameters of animal movement necessary to achieve motor coordination. Determining the relative contribution of proprioceptive feedback is essential for understanding how animals sustain stable, coordinated locomotion in complex natural environments. Here, we focus on the role of chordotonal organs (COs), proprioceptors found in insect legs, in the spatial and temporal regulation of walking. We compare gait parameters of intact cockroaches (. Periplaneta americana) and sensory-impaired ones, injected with pymetrozine, a chemical previously shown to abolish CO function in locusts. We verify that afferent CO activity in pymetrozine-treated cockroaches is inhibited, and analyze the effect of this sensory deprivation on inter-leg coordination. We find significant changes in tarsi placement and leg path trajectories after pymetrozine treatment. Leg touchdown accuracy, measured from relative tarsi positions of adjacent legs, is reduced in treated animals. Interestingly, despite poorer spatial coordination in both stance and swing, temporal properties of the gait remain largely the same as in the intact preparations, apart from changes in ipsilateral phase differences between front and middle legs. These findings provide insights into the role of COs in insect gait control and establish pymetrozine as a useful tool for further studies of insect locomotion.
- Chordotonal organs
- Periplaneta americana
- Spatial and temporal coordination