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Published virtual 2013 Nov 4. Doi: 10.3791/50584
PMID: 24300738
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The cockroach ventral nerve cord ready is a tractable system for neuroethology experiments, neural network modeling, and also testing the physiological impacts of insecticides. This article describes the limit of cockroach sensory modalities that can be provided to assay how pest nervous system responds to ecological perturbations. Emphasis here is on the escape behavior mediated by cerci to gigantic fiber infection in Periplaneta americana. This in situ preparation requires just moderate dissecting skill and also electrophysiological specialization to create reproducible recordings of neuronal activity. Peptides or other chemical reagents deserve to then be applied directly to the nervous system in equipment with the physiological saline. Insecticides could also be administered prior to dissection and the escape circuit can serve together a proxy because that the excitable state that the central nervous system. In this paper definition the assays defined herein would also be valuable to researchers interested in body regeneration and the evolution of concerned system advance for which P. Americana is an established model organism.

Keywords: Neuroscience, issue 81, Life scientific researches (General), electrophysiology, neural circuit, cockroach, neuroethology, neural network modeling, P. Americana, activity potentials (APs)
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There are an ext than 4,000 cockroach species but only about 30 are household pests. Possibly the most recognized is the misnamed American cockroach Periplaneta americana which originated in Africa, and is now found practically everywhere top top the planet. In addition to its fast running speed1 and evasive behavior, in the tropics P. Americana is qualified of flight2,3.

The predominant attributes of the cockroach central nervous mechanism (CNS) room its segmented nature and also decentralization of control processes4,5. The brain, thoracic, and ab ganglia are joined together by paired interganglionic connectives to form the ventral nerve cord (VNC).

The ganglia at every segment room integrating centers. They room composed of an outer, cortical region containing cells responsible because that the blood-brain permeability barrier just beneath them, and also the somata of neurons originating in the ganglion. These somata may belong come interneurons, modulatory neurons, or motor neurons. They supply axons that stay within the ganglion of origin (local interneuron), or axons the project in between the ganglia that the CNS (interganglionic interneurons) or that terminate on peripheral muscle cell (motor neurons). Many somata space positioned ventrally or ventrolaterally in the ganglionic cortex5. The paired, interganglionic connectives contain just axons and no neuronal cell bodies.

The neuropil of a ganglion has glial cell (neuroglia), axon tracts, bundles of axons, and dendrites (neurites) the neurons. The neuropil is devoid of neuronal cell bodies. This is the region within the ganglion where direct synaptic communication among nerve cells and integration of entry occur.

The capability of the American cockroach P. Americana come detect and suddenly respond to an approaching predator (foot, hand, etc.) has actually been attributed come a reflex circuit that consists of the cerci and giant fiber system6,7. The cerci are a pair that horn-like, wind-sensitive structures situated on the finish of the abdomen (Figure 1). In P. Americana the ventral surface of each cercus contains around 200 filiform (thread) hair that room organized into 14 columns. Ripe of these columns deserve to be consistently figured out in different animals according come the an answer properties that the associated receptor cell and also axon. Every hair is in a socket that permits it come bend most readily in one plane that is column specific. Movement of the hair in one direction along its airplane induces a depolarization in the receptor cell and also a to explode of action potentials (APs) in the sensory neuron. Movement in opposing direction inhibits any ongoing voluntary APs8. The preferred airplane of deflection and directionality of the response is various in every column. Thus, the filiform hair-receptor complexes are responsible not only for detecting the motion of wait but likewise for "coding", in the form of APs, the direction native which the air current originated. Processing of this info by the CNS results in an "appropriate" escape response6,7. This functional, columnar specificity of the sensory hairs is maintained from animal to animal.

The receptor cell of each filiform hair is responsible because that transducing the mechanically deflection that the hair into a neural occasion (resulting in a explode or inhibition that APs in the receptor cell"s axon9. The APs take trip to the terminal ab ganglion (A6) via cercal nerve XI, whereby they synapse with gigantic axons that the ventral nerve cord (VNC). The large axons are believed to be responsible because that the transmission and also subsequent excitation of engine neurons that outcomes in an escape behavior6,10,11.

The behavioral latency that the escape an answer of P. Americana is one of the shortest of any kind of animal7. Behavioral latency is the time between the arrival of a economic stimulation at a mechanoreceptor and the initiation of an escape response. In experiments using high rate cinematography to record the check escape indigenous an attack toad, the cockroach to be observed to start its rotate away from the toad in about 40 msec (time from beginning of tongue expansion to cockroach movement7,12. Using managed wind puffs, the behavior latency could be lessened to 11 msec. Various other experiments revealed that a minimum wind puff velocity of 12 mm/msec (with one acceleration the 600 mm/msec2) deserve to evoke an to escape response, while also lower velocities (3 mm/sec) caused progressively walking cockroaches to avoid moving12.

The strong correlation that frequently exists in between giant fiber systems and also escape actions has to be well documented13,14. In instances wherein a particular cell is necessary and also sufficient come evoke a particular behavior the cell is referred to as a command neuron15,16. Huge interneurons (GIs) in the wind to escape circuit that P. Americana space not necessary for the reflex. Animals that have actually experimentally ablated GIs still exhibition the to escape behavior thus these GIs room not considered command neurons17,18. Severing cervical connectives that space rostral come the sensorimotor circuit also influences the behavior, indicating that descending input from the brain has an effect on the direction of escape19. These facets of good control and also redundancy room paramount to the organism"s survival and also are additionally by neurochemical modulation via biogenic amines20.

The P. Americana nerve cord preparation has actually been one elegant model mechanism for neuroethologists end the past many decades beginning with the pioneering job-related of Roeder21. It patent students to record, display and analyze major sensory task and the result responses by giant interneurons to their input22,23,24. In enhancement to conveying the idea the identifiable neural circuits underlie behavioral responses to the environment, these exercises need to instill one appreciation because that the biological contributions made by this common household pest.


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1. Dissection

Cockroach saline solution supplied throughout this protocol has actually the complying with composition:

Cockroach saline solution36: (grams for 100 ml) 210 mM NaCl (1.227 g) 2.9 mM KCl (0.0216 g) 1.8 mM CaCl2 (0.0265 g) 0.2 mM NaH2PO4•2H2O (0.0032 g) 1.8 mM Na2HPO4•7H2O (0.0483 g) (pH 7.2. Readjust pH through 1 M NaOH or 1 M HCl).

Select a male cockroach native the hold tank that has robust cerci (Figure 1). The critical segments of the male room narrow contrasted to the female; and containing no ovaries and egg mass, males are simpler to dissect. The males of P. Americana have a pair of short styli between the cerci. This styli are not it was observed in the females.

Cut turn off the wings, legs and also head and also pin the body, ventral next up, to a food lined with silicone elastomer.

With forceps choose up the ventral plates and cut lock off with fine scissors, beginning at the posterior end and working anteriorly. Always keep the internal organs moist v saline when trying to store the cerci dry. One deserve to use wax or pieces of rubber to position the abdomen upwards to stop the saline indigenous wetting the cerci. If they do gain wet, dried them with a piece of organization paper. Push to the side the internal organs and the white issue (fat body). The VNC is in the center of the field, operation the size of the abdomen and should be visible between the glowing tracheae. The nerve cord is translucent and also may initially be difficult to see till the lighting is readjusted properly (Figure 2). Perform NOT take care of the VNC through forceps or insect pins; instead manipulate it utilizing glass probes.

Clear far the animal"s tracheae system as finest as possible from the nerve cord through forceps and also with a pair of well glass needles, really carefully split the VNC connectives longitudinally in between A6 and A5 or A5 and A4 ganglia (Figure 3). Cradle the cerci and also abdomen upwards the end of the saline bath through shortened insect pins and wax or a wedge the the silicone elastomer that can be cut to right the ready (Figures 4A and B). It is in extra cautious in the last abdominal muscle segment no to damages the cercal nerves that project into the ganglion (Figures 2D and 5).

2. Extracellular Recording

The dissected preparation, microscope, and also recording apparatus have to be setup within a Faraday cage come block external, an especially AC, electrical fields that can override signal from neurons (Figure 6).

Position the microscopic lense so that it is overlooking the microscope stage. Once the ready is placed on the stage, readjust the position of the high strongness illuminator beam for finest visualization of it.

Connect the AC/DC differential amplifier to the integrated data recording unit (details on the particular hardware and software settings have actually been previously defined 25). The head phase holding a suction electrode should be connected to the amplifier. A silver- ground cable that has been coated with Cl- placed into the abdomen outcomes in more stable recordings. The factor is if the equipment in the body cavity is no in contact with the bathing liquid in the dish, the fluid linked with the record electrode remains grounded.

Set the recording frequency to 4 kHz. Set the voltage scale (y-axis) to 500 mV (this can be readjusted to optimize image of the trace). Run the recording software application in consistent or oscilloscope mode to document neural activity in solution to stimulations.

Cut among the VNC connectives close come A5 and also place the reduced end attached to A6 right into a suction electrode. Be sure to traction saline into the suction electrode to cover the silver wire inside it before sucking in the nerve.

With a dried pipette blow air on to the hairs situated on every cercus. Check out if stimulating the hair on the cercus ipsilateral come the tape-recorded connective offers a different an answer than the contralateral one. Take keep in mind of the amplitude of the responses and the number of spikes in a offered time interval throughout the stimulation.

Move the suction electrode to a cercal nerve for recording. To obtain a better fit, switch to one electrode reminder with a smaller opening if necessary.

Cut the cercal nerve close to A6 and then suck up the nerve bring about the cercus. There must be spontaneous shoot of action potentials. Now, blow air top top the cercus and note the responses.

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3. Electrically Stimulating the Sensory Nerves to determine Recruitment

Change the recording software application to sweep setting so the it records traces (100-500 msec.) every time a stimulus is triggered.

Connect the stimulating electrode come the calculation of the stimulator.

Connect the stimulator cable through the 2 mini-hook leads or clips.

Connect the BNC trigger output from the stimulator come the create input on the record unit.

The adhering to stimulation parameters should evoke a response: Duration: 0.3 sec; Delay: 10 msec; Frequency: 1 Hz; Voltage: readjust as essential to attain a signal in the recordings (just over threshold and being may be to obtain a maximal response). There is no reason to walk to voltages much greater than maximal threshold because that recruitment as a high voltage have the right to be damaging come the nerve.

Cut the cercal nerve as distal as feasible so that a long nerve root can be pulled right into the stimulating suction electrode (Figure 7, arrowhead head). The connective in between A6 and also A5 or another segment an ext anterior have the right to be used.

Set the recording suction electrode therefore you can pull up a reduced connective right into the electrode. Be certain to pull some saline into the suction electrodes come cover the silver wire within it prior to sucking in the nerves. Make sure the stimulating electrode is additionally grounded in the bath saline (in the abdomen near A3 is ideal).

Deliver a collection of solitary stimuli of raising voltage till an action potential shows up on the screen. One need to make a document of the minimal stimulating voltage and also duration to recruit a response. Boost the intensity till a synaptic an answer in the connectives is observed. The huge spike (extracellular APs) native the huge axons appears first, and then various other smaller AP"s may also be observed.

Representative Results

Stimulation of hairs on the cerci by a puff of air reasons discharges of major sensory neurons that deserve to be tape-recorded using extracellular suction electrodes attached one of two people to connectives between abdominal muscle ganglia or the cercal nerve itself (Figure 8). Spike amplitudes taped from the two areas are top top the bespeak of several micro-volts come millivolts. Due to the fact that of sensory integration in the ganglion the variety of spikes observed in the compound action potential or as individual spikes recorded from the cercal nerve is remarkably higher than observed in recordings indigenous the connectives. However likewise note that there is substantially less noise in the recording at the connective because of the tighter seal between the electrode and also the concerned tissue.

By puffing air at the cerci large spikes deserve to be observed in the connectives (Figure 8A). Using this stimulating method, recordings between A3 and A4 frequently show a big spike properties of the giant interneuron(s). Recording from a cercal nerve while physically rubbing the cerci with forceps created a strong bust of task (Figure 8B1). In another recording, 2 puffs of air each produced a rapid busting solution in the cercal nerve (Figure 8B2). When electrically stimulating the cercal nerve with a suction electrode and also recording in the connective between A3 and also A4, one have the right to observe a threshold in the stimulation to evoked responses (Figure 8C1). The electrical stimulation of the cercal nerve clearly elicits a an answer in connectives which have the right to be quantified because that manipulative studies with pharmacological agents or the local environmental surrounds, such together temperature (Figure 8C2).

Figure 1.Periplaneta americana with undamaged cerci.

Figure 2. Ventral see of cockroach nerve cord as seen v the ventral cuticle removed (A). One enlarged check out of the segment outlined by arrows is checked out in (B). In (C) the connectives were spilt in between A4 and also A3 with a glass probe. The 6th abdominal ganglion is presented in (D) through the two cercal nerves leaving in ~ the caudal end.

Figure 3. Schematic ventral see of cockroach nerve cord.

Figure 4.The cerci space positioned upwards out of the saline bath. The opened up abdomen have the right to be flooded with saline (A) with the caudal end of the roach gift elevated v a small wedged shaped piece of silicone elastomer in order to keep the cerci the end of the bath (B).

Figure 5.The sixth abdominal ganglion through the cercal nerve (outlined through arrows).

Figure 6. The equipment collection up. Click below to view larger figure.

Figure 7.Stimulating and also recording electrode collection up.

Figure 8. Neural recordings of the connectives and also cercal nerve with assorted stimulation procedures. Recording through a suction electrode indigenous the connectives between A3 and A4 if puffing air in ~ the cerci (A). Record from the main cercal neurons with a suction electrode while one of two people physically rubbing (B1) or giving air puffs (B2) results in fast bursts of task in the cercal nerve. Electrically stimulating the cercal nerve produces responses in connectives (C1). Keep in mind the steady increase in the stimulating intensity (arrows show the amplitude that the stimulating artifact) and also the strongness of the following evoked responses. The electrical stimulation that the cercal nerve provides a relatively an ext controlled way of stimulating the cercal nerve for consistency in stimulation because that quantifying the responses (C2).


One of the factors for exhibiting approaches for this classical preparation is the the cerci system has actually been and still is an active area of research study in addressing inquiries of the advance of neural circuitry as well as questions regarding synaptic repair and also regeneration 26-31. Either an approach of evoking task in the cockroach ventral nerve cord have the right to be provided to research the results of pharmacological agents or insecticides on nervous device function. These experiments room done by just dissolving neuroactive chemicals into saline. After trading this solution with the common bathing medium, transforms in evoked or spontaneous activity may be observed while recording from connectives or a motor nerve to provide a continuous readout that the chemical"s impact on CNS function.

As in all neurophysiological experiment a usual problem is electric noise. Most likely the biggest aspect in signal quality for these preparations is the suction electrode seal top top the nerve tissue. A tight seal the does not completely draw in the cercal nerve or connective is ideal. Recordings can also be do with double hook electrodes placed under the nerve cord and insulating the VNC through a mixture of mineral oil and also petrolatum. The mixture have the right to be loaded right into a syringe and expelled around the nerve cord32. Also a careful dissection is as vital here together in any type of CNS preparation. Some may uncover it less complicated to accessibility the CNS by dissecting the dorsal cuticle. While this reduces the opportunity of damaging the ventral nerve cord it deserve to be more complicated to remove all of the viscera making use of this approach.

It is not explained here but this preparation is amenable to intracellular record in the large interneurons 32,33. The entire nerve cord can additionally be gotten rid of to accommodate number of recording and stimulating electrodes simultaneously. In fact expedition of the antennal lobe, mushroom body, and also other anterior CNS frameworks is tho in progress34-35. When the cockroach CNS continues to shed light on modern-day neurobiological research study this specific preparation is straightforward enough come be supplied in undergraduate academic laboratories.

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The writer declare the there room no disputes of interest.


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