Phase-Specific Motor Efference during a Rhythmic Motor Pattern.J Neurosci. 2020 Feb 26; 40(9):1888-1896.JN
Neuronal circuits that control motor behaviors orchestrate multiple tasks, including the inhibition of self-generated sensory signals. In the hermaphroditic leech, T and P mechanosensory neurons respond to light touch and pressure on the skin, respectively. We show that the low threshold T cells were also sensitive to topological changes of the animal surface, caused by contraction of the muscles that erect the skin annuli. P cells were unresponsive to this movement. Annuli erection is part of the contraction phase of crawling, a leech locomotive behavior. In isolated ganglia, T cells showed phase-dependent IPSPs during dopamine-induced fictive crawling, whereas P cells were unaffected. The timing and magnitude of the T-IPSPs were highly correlated with the activity of the motoneurons excited during the contraction phase. Together, the results suggest that the central network responsible for crawling sends a reafferent signal onto the T cells, concomitant with the signal to the motoneurons. This reafference is specifically targeted at the sensory neurons that are affected by the movements; and it is behaviorally relevant as excitation of T cells affected the rhythmic motor pattern, probably acting upon the rhythmogenic circuit. Corollary discharge is a highly conserved function of motor systems throughout evolution, and we provide clear evidence of the specificity of its targets and timing and of the benefit of counteracting self-generated sensory input.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Neuronal circuits that control motor behaviors orchestrate multiple tasks, including inhibition of sensory signals originated by the animal movement, a phenomenon known as corollary discharge. Leeches crawl on solid surfaces through a sequence of elongation and contraction movements. During the contraction, the skin topology changes, affecting a subpopulation of mechanosensory receptors, T (touch) neurons, but not P (pressure) sensory neurons. In the isolated nervous system, T neurons were inhibited during the contraction but not during the elongation phase, whereas P cells were unaffected throughout crawling. Excitation of T cells during the contraction phase temporarily disrupted the rhythmic pattern. Thus, corollary discharge was target (T vs P) and phase (contraction vs elongation) specific, and prevented self-generated signals to perturb motor behaviors.