From Motor-Output to Connectivity: An In-Depth Study of in-vitro Rhythmic Patterns in the Cockroach Periplaneta americana

Izhak David*, Amir Ayali

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The cockroach is an established model in the study of locomotion control. While previous work has offered important insights into the interplay among brain commands, thoracic central pattern generators, and the sensory feedback that shapes their motor output, there remains a need for a detailed description of the central pattern generators' motor output and their underlying connectivity scheme. To this end, we monitored pilocarpine-induced activity of levator and depressor motoneurons in two types of novel in-vitro cockroach preparations: isolated thoracic ganglia and a whole-chain preparation comprising the thoracic ganglia and the subesophageal ganglion. Our data analyses focused on the motoneuron firing patterns and the coordination among motoneuron types in the network. The burstiness and rhythmicity of the motoneurons were monitored, and phase relations, coherence, coupling strength, and frequency-dependent variability were analyzed. These parameters were all measured and compared among network units both within each preparation and among the preparations. Here, we report differences among the isolated ganglia, including asymmetries in phase and coupling strength, which indicate that they are wired to serve different functions. We also describe the intrinsic default gait and a frequency-dependent coordination. The depressor motoneurons showed mostly similar characteristics throughout the network regardless of interganglia connectivity; whereas the characteristics of the levator motoneurons activity were mostly ganglion-dependent, and influenced by the presence of interganglia connectivity. Asymmetries were also found between the anterior and posterior homolog parts of the thoracic network, as well as between ascending and descending connections. Our analyses further discover a frequency-dependent inversion of the interganglia coordination from alternations between ipsilateral homolog oscillators to simultaneous activity. We present a detailed scheme of the network couplings, formulate coupling rules, and review a previously suggested model of connectivity in light of our new findings. Our data support the notion that the inter-hemiganglia coordination derives from the levator networks and their coupling with local depressor interneurons. Our findings also support a dominant role of the metathoracic ganglion and its ascending output in governing the anterior ganglia motor output during locomotion in the behaving animal.

Original languageEnglish
Article number655933
JournalFrontiers in Insect Science
StatePublished - 2021


  • central pattern generator
  • cockroach
  • coupling strength
  • depressor
  • intersegmental coordination
  • levator
  • locomotion control
  • pilocarpine


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