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Central pattern generators (CPGs) are neural circuits whose component neurons possess intrinsic properties and synaptic connections that allow them to generate rhythmic motor outputs in the absence of descending inputs. The cardiac ganglion (CG) is a nine-cell CPG located in the American lobster, Homarus americanus. Stretch of the myocardium feeds back to the CG through mechano-sensitive dendrites and is thought to play a role in maintaining regularity in the beating pattern of the heart. The novel peptide AMGSEFLamide has been observed to induce irregular beating patterns when applied at high concentrations. This study investigated the interaction between stretch-related feedback and AMGSEFLamide modulation in generating irregular beating patterns in the whole heart of Homarus americanus. It was hypothesized that greater longitudinal stretch of the heart would result in greater regularity in the instantaneous beat frequency, based on previous findings that stretch-sensitive dendrites play a role in the regulation of the heartbeat. Furthermore, it was predicted that the elimination of stretch feedback via deafferentation of the heart would augment the irregularity induced by AMGSEFLamide. Data showed significantly increased irregularity in beating in response to 10-6 M AMGSEFLamide application. Longitudinal stretch did not reliably alter baseline variability in frequency, nor did it influence the modulatory effect of AMGSEFLamide. Deafferentation did not significantly alter baseline irregularity. Deafferented preparations did exhibit a trend of responding to AMGSEFLamide with a greater percent increase in irregularity compared to when afferents were intact, suggesting a potential role of stretch-stabilization in response to modulatory perturbations in the Homarus heart.
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