Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program


First Advisor

Patsy Dickinson


Neuromodulation allows for the flexibility of neural circuit dynamics and the outputs they produce. Studies of the stomatogastric nervous system (STNS) have expanded our knowledge on the actions of neuromodulators, small molecules that most often activate G-protein coupled receptors and reconfigure circuit activity and composition. In these systems, modulation has been found to occur at every level, from sensory-motor coupling to neuromuscular transmission (Harris-Warrick and Marder 1991). Neuromodulators have complex effects on motor output; they can alter the firing of individual neurons while also modulating muscle properties, neuromuscular transmission, and sensory neuron response to muscle activity (Fort et al. 2004).

We investigated this further by recording the motor output produced by the gastric mill rhythm of the lobster STNS under neuromodulator conditions. How is this neuromuscular system as a whole modulated to produce motor flexibility? We hypothesized that these neuromodulators act on individual receptors of component neurons of central pattern generator (CPG)-effector system themselves and at the periphery, coordinately altering muscle contraction by altering all levels of the crustacean neuromuscular system.

Application of NRNFLRFamide, RPCH, oxotremorine, and proctolin to the gastric mill 4 (gm4) muscles of the Cancer crab showed that neuromodulators that have been found to have variable, yet significant effects on the activity of the neurons of the STNS directly alter the activity of the gm4 muscles as well, suggesting that coordination of peripheral actions and direct neuronal modulation regulates patterned motor output.