To characterize the neural elements involved in the higher-order control of spontaneous walking in insects, we recorded extracellular spike activity in the protocerebrum of freely walking crickets (Gryllus bimaculatus). Locomotor behavior was simultaneously recorded using a newly developed motion tracking system. We focused on spike units that altered their firing patterns during walking. According to their activity patterns with reference to walking bouts, these locomotor-related spike units were classified into the following four types: continuously activated unit during walking (type 1); continuously inhibited unit during walking (type 2); transiently activated unit at the onset of walking (type 3); and transiently activated unit at the termination of walking (type 4). The type 1 unit was the most dominant group (25 out of 33 units), whereas only a few units each were recorded for types 2–4. Some of the locomotor-related units tended to change firing pattern before the onset or termination of walking bouts. Spike activity in some type 1 units was found to be closely correlated with walking speed. When firing timing was compared between unit pairs, their temporal relationships (synchronization/desynchronization) altered, depending on the behavioral state (standing/walking). Mechanical stimuli applied to the body surface elicited excitatory responses in the majority of the units. Histological observations revealed that the recorded sites were concentrated near or within the mushroom body and central complex in the protocerebrum.
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Vol. 30 • No. 7