Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 173, Issue 3, pp 363–376

Temporal discharge patterns of tectal and medullary neurons chronically recorded during snapping toward prey in toads Bufo bufo spinosus

  • E. Schürg-Pfeiffer
  • C. Spreckelsen
  • J. -P. Ewert


In freely moving toads, the temporal discharge patterns of tectal and medullary neurons were observed during prey-catching.

  1. 1.

    Tectal T5.2 and T8.1 neurons displayed a premotor warming up firing that in the former was addressed specifically to prey orienting or snapping and in the latter generally to almost any kind of body movement.

  2. 2.

    The temporal discharge patterns of T5.2 neurons during snapping were different from those during orienting toward prey. Snapping started in the peak phase of warming up; firing was immediately terminated during the snap; thereafter some rebound activity was observed. Orienting started after the premotor warming up in the declining phase whilst the neuron kept on firing during orienting and then settled when the orienting movement was completed.

  3. 3.

    In toads which were not motivated to catch prey — comparabl to immobilized ones — the discharge frequency of T5.2 neurons toward a prey stimulus revealed no such warming up.

  4. 4.

    Because it is known that prey-selective T5.2 neurons are controlled by pretectal inhibitory influences, the following experiment was conducted: during recording a T5.2 neuron a pretectal lesion was applied ipsilaterally to the recording site. After a few seconds, the neuron showed a strong premotor wanning up in response to any kind of moving object, followed by prey-catching.

  5. 5.

    In the medulla oblongata, different H-type neurons of the hypoglossal nucleus displayed specific discharge patterns which resembled the tongue protractor and retractor muscle activities; a third type resembled the activity of the genio/sterno-hyoid muscle, which are suggested to stabilize the hyoid bone during snapping.

  6. 6.

    There were medullary M8-type neurons with properties similar to T8.1.

  7. 7.

    Snapping could be triggered by electrical stimulation of the optic tectum in the representation of the frontal visual field, but not by stimulation in the hypoglossal nucleus or the adjacent medial reticular formation.

  8. 8.

    A concept of a neuronal circuit for the coordination of tongue muscle contractions in response to prey is proposed.


Key words

Snapping Chronic single cell recording Optic tectum Medulla oblongata Toad 


{a*, a, b, c, d, e, e*}

sequence of seven acts involved in snapping: lunging, jaw opening, tongue projection, grasping prey, tongue retraction, jaw closing, moving back


excitatory receptive field


geniohyoid muscle


genioglossus muscle


neurons of the hypoglossal nucleus


hyoglossus muscle


hypoglossal nucleus


medullary neurons


motor pattern generator


medial reticular formation


muscle sum potential




retinal ganglion cells


snapping evoking area




sternohyoid muscle


tectal neurons


pretectal thalamic neurons


caudal ventral striatum


stripe moving in the direction of its longer axis, called worm [W-] configuration (W-stimulus)


same stripe moving at the same velocity, but the longer axis is oriented perpendicular to the direction of movement, called antiworm [A-] configuration (A-stimulus)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Schürg-Pfeiffer
    • 1
  • C. Spreckelsen
    • 1
  • J. -P. Ewert
    • 1
  1. 1.Abteilung Neurobiologie, Fachbereich 19 (Biologie/Chemie), Universität Kassel (GhK)KasselGermany

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