There is considerable flexibility embedded within neural circuits. For example, separate modulatory inputs can differently configure the same underlying circuit but these different configurations generate comparable, or degenerate, activity patterns. However, little is known about whether these mechanistically different circuits in turn exhibit degenerate responses to the same inputs. We examined this issue using the crab (Cancer borealis) stomatogastric nervous system, in which stimulating the modulatory projection neuron MCN1 and bath applying the neuropeptide CabPK II elicit similar gastric mill (chewing) rhythms in the stomatogastric ganglion, despite differentially configuring the same neural circuit. We showed previously that bath applying the peptide hormone CCAP or stimulating the muscle stretch-sensitive sensory neuron GPR during the MCN1-elicited gastric mill rhythm selectively prolongs the protraction or retraction phase, respectively. Here, we found that these two influences on the CabPK-rhythm elicited some unique and unexpected consequences compared to their actions on the MCN1-rhythm. For example, in contrast to its effect on the MCN1-rhythm, CCAP selectively decreased the CabPK-rhythm retraction phase and thus increased the rhythm speed, whereas the CabPK-rhythm response to stimulating GPR during the retraction phase was similar its effect on the MCN1-rhythm (i.e. prolonging retraction). Interestingly, despite the comparable GPR actions on these degenerate rhythms, the underlying synaptic mechanism was distinct. Thus, degenerate circuits do not necessarily exhibit degenerate responses to the same influence, but when they do, it can occur via different underlying mechanisms.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience