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The role of proprioception in locust flight control

I. Asymmetry and coupling within the time pattern of motor units

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  1. 1.

    The timing of the direct depressor motor neurones and its variability is analyzed during straight flight ofLocusta migratoria in a wind tunnel. The time of occurrence of a given motor spike varies in the range of several milliseconds (Fig. 2). This is considerably large, since changes of the timing during steering reactions are of the same order of magnitude.

  2. 2.

    The firing sequence of the direct motor neurones during each downstroke shows an asymmetry by which a ‘leading’ side can be defined. However, not all motor neurones on the leading side fire earlier than their contralateral homologues (Figs. 2, 3).

  3. 3.

    It is discussed that the great variability and the asymmetry in the timing of the motor neurones is due to the special conditiones of tethered flight, namely the fact that the exteroception is functionally disabled. As a consequence of this, it is postulated that in the free flying animal the motor neurones are much more precisely timed than during flights in the wind tunnel.

  4. 4.

    The changes in the timing of different motor neurones do not occur independently from one another. There are correlations between them, which can be summarized in a complex correlation pattern (Figs. 8 to 10). The analysis was restricted to correlations which occurred only in variations from one wing beat to the next (Fig. 7).

  5. 5.

    The correlations between the firing time of different motor neurones are possibly due to a mechanism, which ensures that such combinations of motor change are preferred which are in favour of flight stability. In the light of the results presented in Part II and III of this contribution, the proprioception is at least one factor responsible for the correlations.

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Möhl, B. The role of proprioception in locust flight control. J. Comp. Physiol. 156, 93–101 (1985). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00610670

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  • Wind Tunnel
  • Flight Control
  • Motor Neurone
  • Firing Time
  • Special Conditiones