Mentor: Dr. Peter Brodfuehrer
Movement in a leech is controlled by a series of ganglia, small clusters of nerve cells, distributed along the length of the body. Each ganglion controls muscles in its own segment of the body but shares information with adjacent ganglia by means of connective fibers that run all along the animal. The nervous system is capable of producing a specific pattern of movements, swimming, which can be stimulated at any point along the body, but which is maintained by coordinated activity in the entire nervous system.
According to a current model leech swimming is maintained by a network of cells with mutually excitatory connections both within and between the segmental ganglia. If this is the case, one would expect that activity during a swim bout could be observed along the connective fibers between ganglia and that this activity along the connectives would change at the end of a swim bout as the reciprocal excitation was somehow disrupted. The Brodfuehrer lab is examining how activity along the connectives correlates with the end of swimming in the reciprocal network.