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The lateral giant (LG) tail-flip escape system of crayfish is organized to provide a massive convergence of mechanosensory inputs onto the LG command neuron through electrical synapses from both mechanosensory afferents and interneurons. We used electrophysiological techniques to show that the connections between three major mechanosensory interneurons and LG rectify, and that their inputs to LG can be reduced by postsynaptic depolarization and increased by postsynaptic hyperpolarization. The mechanosensory afferents and interneurons are excited by sensory nerve shock, and the components of the resulting LG PSP can be similarly modulated by the same postsynaptic potential changes. Because these inputs are all made through electrical synapses, we conclude that they are rectifying connections, as well. To test the physical plausibility of this conclusion, we developed an electrical model of the rectifying connection between a mechanosensory interneuron and LG, and found that it can reproduce all the qualitative features of the orthodromic and antidromic experimental responses. The ability of postsynaptic membrane potential to modulate inputs through rectifying electrical synapses is used in the escape system to enhance LG’s relative sensitivity to novel, phasic stimuli. Postsynaptic depolarization of LG produced by earlier inputs “reverse-biases” the rectifying input synapses and reduces their strength relative to times when LG is at rest.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Neuroscience and is available here. Copyright © 1991 Society for Neuroscience.

The article is posted here with the permission of the author.