Activity-dependent modulation of adaptation produces a constant burst proportion in a model of the lamprey spinal locomotor generator

M. Ullström, J. Hellgren Kotalcski, J. Tegnér, E. Aurell, S. Grillner, A. Lansner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The neuronal network underlying lamprey swimming has stimulated extensive modelling on different levels of abstraction. The lamprey swims with a burst frequency ranging from 0.3 to 8-10 Hz with a rostrocaudal lag between bursts in each segment along the spinal cord. The swimming motor pattern is characterized by a burst proportion that is independent of burst frequency and lasts around 30%-40% of the cycle duration. This also applies in preparations in which the reciprocal inhibition in the spinal cord between the left and right side is blocked. A network of coupled excitatory neurons producing hemisegmental oscillations may form the basis of the lamprey central pattern generator (CPG). Here we explored how such networks, in principle, could produce a large frequency range with a constant burst proportion. The computer simulations of the lamprey CPG use simplified, graded output units that could represent populations of neurons and that exhibit adaptation. We investigated the effect of an active modulation of the degree of adaptation of the CPG units to accomplish a constant burst proportion over the whole frequency range when, in addition, each hemisegment is assumed to be self-oscillatory. The degree of adaptation is increased with the degree of stimulation of the network. This will make the bursts terminate earlier at higher burst rates, allowing for a constant burst proportion. Without modulated adaptation the network operates in a limited range of swimming frequencies due to a progressive increase of burst duration with increasing background stimulation. By introducing a modulation of the adaptation, a broad burst frequency range can be produced. The reciprocal inhibition is thus not the primary burst terminating factor, as in many CPG models, and it is mainly responsible for producing alternation between the left and right sides. The results are compared with the Morris-Lecar oscillator model with parameters set to produce a type A and type B oscillator, in which the burst durations stay constant or increase, respectively, when the background stimulation is increased. Here as well, burst duration can be controlled by modulation of the slow variable in a similar way as above. When oscillatory hemisegmental networks are coupled together in a chain a phase lag is produced. The production of a phase lag in chains of such oscillators is compared with chains of Morris-Lecar relaxation oscillators. Models relating to the intact versus isolated spinal cord preparation are discussed, as well as the role of descending inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalBiological Cybernetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • General Computer Science


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