, Volume 174, Issue 4, pp 399-410

Processing of mechanosensory information from gustatory receptors on a hind leg of the locust

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Abstract

Gustatory receptors (basiconic sensilla) on the legs of the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria, are innervated by chemosensory afferents and by a mechanosensory afferent. We show, for the first time, that these mechanosensory afferents form an elaborate detector system with the following properties: 1) they have low threshold displacement angles that decrease with increasing stimulus frequency in the range 0.05–1 Hz, 2) they respond phasically to deflections of the receptor shaft and adapt rapidly to repetitive stimulation, 3) they encode the velocity of the stimulus in their spike frequency and have velocity thresholds lower than 1°/s, and 4) they are directionally sensitive, so that stimuli moving proximally towards the coxa elicit the greatest response.

The mechanosensory afferents, but not the chemosensory afferents, make apparently monosynaptic connections with spiking local interneurones in a population with somata at the ventral midline of the metathoracic ganglion. They evoke excitatory synaptic potentials that can sum to produce spikes in the spiking local interneurones. Stimulation of the single mechanosensory afferent of a gustatory receptor can also give rise to long lasting depolarizations, or to bursts of excitatory postsynaptic potentials in the interneurones that can persist for several seconds after the afferent spikes. These interneurones are part of the local circuitry involved in the production of local movements of a leg. The mechanosensory afferents from gustatory receptors must, therefore, be considered as part of the complex array of exteroceptors that provide mechanosensory information to these local circuits for use in adjusting, or controlling locomotion.