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The excitability of the leg postural circuit and its response to serotonin (5-HT) were studied in vitro in thoracic nervous system preparations of dominant and subordinate male crayfishes. We demonstrate that the level of spontaneous tonic activity of depressor and levator motoneurons (MNs) (which control downward and upward movements of the leg, respectively) and the amplitude of their resistance reflex are larger in dominants than in subordinates. Moreover, we show that serotonergic neuromodulation of the postural circuit also depends on social status. Depressor and levator MN tonic firing rates and resistance reflex amplitudes were significantly modified in the presence of 10 M5-HT in dominants but not in subordinates. Using intracellular recording from depressor MNs,we show that their input resistance was not significantly different in dominants and subordinates in control conditions. However, 5-HT produced a marked depolarization in dominants and a significantly weaker depolarization in subordinates. Moreover, in the presence of 5-HT, the amplitude of the resistance reflex and the input resistance of MNs increased in dominants and decreased in subordinates. The peak amplitude and the decay phase of unitary EPSPs triggered by sensory spikes were significantly increased by 5-HT in dominants but not in subordinates. These observations suggest that neural networks are more reactive in dominants than in subordinates, and this divergence is even reinforced by 5-HT modulation.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Copyright © 2010 Society for Neuroscience. The article is posted here with the permission of the publisher and author.