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Distributed network organization underlying feeding behavior in the mollusk Lymnaea

Paul R Benjamin

Author Affiliations

School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QG, UK

Neural Systems & Circuits 2012, 2:4  doi:10.1186/2042-1001-2-4

Published: 17 April 2012


The aim of the work reviewed here is to relate the properties of individual neurons to network organization and behavior using the feeding system of the gastropod mollusk, Lymnaea. Food ingestion in this animal involves sequences of rhythmic biting movements that are initiated by the application of a chemical food stimulus to the lips and esophagus. We investigated how individual neurons contribute to various network functions that are required for the generation of feeding behavior such as rhythm generation, initiation ('decision making'), modulation and hunger and satiety. The data support the view that feeding behavior is generated by a distributed type of network organization with individual neurons often contributing to more than one network function, sharing roles with other neurons. Multitasking in a distributed type of network would be 'economically' sensible in the Lymnaea feeding system where only about 100 neurons are available to carry out a variety of complex tasks performed by millions of neurons in the vertebrate nervous system. Having complementary and potentially alternative mechanisms for network functions would also add robustness to what is a 'noisy' network where variable firing rates and synaptic strengths are commonly encountered in electrophysiological recording experiments.

Distributed organization; Lymnaea; Molluscan feeding behavior; Networks; Neurons