Cyclic patterns of motor neuron activity are involved in the production of many rhythmic movements, such as walking, swimming, and scratching. These movements are controlled by neural circuits referred to as central pattern generators (CPGs). Some of these circuits function in the absence of both internal pacemakers and external feedback. We describe an associative neural network model whose dynamic behavior is similar to that of CPGs. The theory predicts the strength of all possible connections between pairs of neurons on the basis of the outputs of the CPG. It also allows the mean operating levels of the neurons to be deduced from the measured synaptic strengths between the pairs of neurons. We apply our theory to the CPG controlling escape swimming in the mollusk Tritonia diomedea. The basic rhythmic behavior is shown to be consistent with a simplified model that approximates neurons as threshold units and slow synaptic responses as elementary time delays. The model we describe may have relevance to other fixed action behaviors, as well as to the learning, recall, and recognition of temporally ordered information.
Associative Network Models for Central Pattern Generators
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