Breathing and calling: neuronal networks in the Xenopus laevis hindbrain. Academic Article uri icon


  • Xenopus laevis is an aquatic anuran with a complex vocal repertoire. Unlike terrestrial frogs, vocalizations are independent of respiration, and a single muscle group--the laryngeal dilators--produces underwater calls. We sought to identify the premotor neural network that underlies vocal behaviors. Vocal patterns generated by premotor networks control laryngeal motor neurons in cranial nucleus (n.) IX-X. Glottal motor neurons, active during respiration, are also present in n.IX-X. We used horseradish peroxidase (HRP), Lucifer yellow, and fluorescently conjugated dextrans to characterize the organization of n.IX-X and to trace premotor neuron projections. Premotor nuclei include the inferior reticular formation (Ri) adjacent to n.IX-X and the pretrigeminal nucleus of the dorsal tegmental area of the medulla (DTAM), the primary descending input to n.IX-X. Intramuscular HRP injections revealed a spatially segregated pattern, with glottal motor neurons in anterior n.IX-X and laryngeal motor neurons in the caudal portion of the nucleus. Dextran injections identified commissural n.IX-X neurons that project to the contralateral motor nucleus and DTAM-projecting n.IX-X neurons. Both neuronal types are clustered in anteromedial n.IX-X, closely associated with glottal motor neurons. Ri neurons project to ipsilateral and contralateral DTAM. Projections from DTAM target n.IX-X bilaterally, and all four identified subtypes receive DTAM input. In contrast, Ri neurons receive little input from DTAM. We hypothesize that connectivity between neurons in n.IX-X, Ri and DTAM may provide mechanisms to generate laryngeal and glottal activity patterns and that DTAM may coordinate vocal and respiratory motor pools, perhaps acting to switch between these two mutually exclusive behaviors.

publication date

  • March 20, 2007