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Published February 22, 2018 | Submitted + Published + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Responses to mechanically and visually cued water waves in the nervous system of the medicinal leech


Sensitivity to water waves is a key modality by which aquatic predators can detect and localize their prey. For one such predator – the medicinal leech, Hirudo verbana – behavioral responses to visual and mechanical cues from water waves are well documented. Here, we quantitatively characterized the response patterns of a multisensory interneuron, the S cell, to mechanically and visually cued water waves. As a function of frequency, the response profile of the S cell replicated key features of the behavioral prey localization profile in both visual and mechanical modalities. In terms of overall firing rate, the S cell response was not direction selective, and although the direction of spike propagation within the S cell system did follow the direction of wave propagation under certain circumstances, it is unlikely that downstream neuronal targets can use this information. Accordingly, we propose a role for the S cell in the detection of waves but not in the localization of their source. We demonstrated that neither the head brain nor the tail brain are required for the S cell to respond to visually cued water waves.

Additional Information

© 2018. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. Received October 6, 2017. Accepted December 5, 2017. We gratefully acknowledge help from Annette Stowasser in teaching dissection skills and useful discussions on optics and visual systems. The authors declare no competing or financial interests. Author contributions: Conceptualization: A.M., D.A.W.; Methodology: D.A.W.; Software: D.A.W.; Validation: D.A.W.; Formal analysis: A.M.L., A.M., D.A.W.; Investigation: A.M.L., A.M., D.A.W.; Data curation: D.A.W.; Writing - original draft: A.M.L., A.M., D.A.W.; Writing - review & editing: A.M.L., A.M., D.A.W.; Visualization: D.A.W.; Supervision: D.A.W.; Project administration: D.A.W.; Funding acquisition: D.A.W. This work was supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund through a Career Award at the Scientific Interface and by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke through R01 NS094403 (both to D.A.W.). Deposited in PMC for release after 12 months.

Attached Files

Published - jeb171728.full.pdf

Submitted - 137588.full.pdf

Supplemental Material - JEB171728supp.pdf


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