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An early midbrain sensorimotor pathway is involved in the timely initiation and direction of swimming in the hatchling Xenopus laevis tadpole

Larbi, Michelle Christine, Messa, Giulia, Jalal, Helin, Koutsikou, Stella (2022) An early midbrain sensorimotor pathway is involved in the timely initiation and direction of swimming in the hatchling Xenopus laevis tadpole. Frontiers in Neural Circuits, 16 . E-ISSN 1662-5110. (KAR id:98447)


Vertebrate locomotion is heavily dependent on descending control originating in the midbrain and subsequently influencing central pattern generators in the spinal cord. However, the midbrain neuronal circuitry and its connections with other brainstem and spinal motor circuits has not been fully elucidated. Vertebrates with very simple nervous system, like the hatchling Xenopus laevis tadpole, have been instrumental in unravelling fundamental principles of locomotion and its suspraspinal control. Here, we use behavioral and electrophysiological approaches in combination with lesions of the midbrain to investigate its contribution to the initiation and control of the tadpole swimming in response to trunk skin stimulation. None of the midbrain lesions studied here blocked the tadpole’s sustained swim behavior following trunk skin stimulation. However, we identified that distinct midbrain lesions led to significant changes in the latency and trajectory of swimming. These changes could partly be explained by the increase in synchronous muscle contractions on the opposite sides of the tadpole’s body and permanent deflection of the tail from its normal position, respectively. We conclude that the tadpole’s embryonic trunk skin sensorimotor pathway involves the midbrain, which harbors essential neuronal circuitry to significantly contribute to the appropriate, timely and coordinated selection and execution of locomotion, imperative to the animal’s survival.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: Midbrain, locomotion, swimming, Xenopus, tadpole, descending control, brainstem, sensorimotor
Subjects: Q Science > QP Physiology (Living systems)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Natural Sciences > Medway School of Pharmacy
Funders: Physiological Society (
Depositing User: Stella Koutsikou
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2022 12:28 UTC
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2023 14:54 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Larbi, Michelle Christine.

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Koutsikou, Stella.

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