Mentor: Dr. Peter Brodfuehrer
In research on the neuronal control of behavior, neurons that initiate and/or are active during a specific behavior have been ‘identified or functionally labeled’ with respect to a specific behavior. For example, in medicinal leech, Hirudo medicinalis , stimulation of cell Tr1 was initially shown to trigger leech swimming, and thus, was identified as a trigger neuron for leech swimming. However, recent research conducted in Professor Peter Brodfuehrer’s lab has shown that stimulation of cell Tr1 can also elicit crawling in the isolated nerve cord. In this study, we plan to investigate which factors influence the motor pattern produced by stimulating cell Tr1. First, we will test whether the firing frequency of Tr1 determines if crawling or swimming occurs, and secondly, we will test whether the activity level in other swim-related neurons in the leech segmental nerve cord influences the motor pattern produced following Tr1 stimulation. These experiments will help to clarify the functional role of Tr1 in leech locomotive behaviors.