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Dev Neurobiol April 1, 2012; 72 (4): 649-63.
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Xenopus laevis: an ideal experimental model for studying the developmental dynamics of neural network assembly and sensory-motor computations.

Straka H , Simmers J .

The amphibian Xenopus laevis represents a highly amenable model system for exploring the ontogeny of central neural networks, the functional establishment of sensory-motor transformations, and the generation of effective motor commands for complex behaviors. Specifically, the ability to employ a range of semi-intact and isolated preparations for in vitro morphophysiological experimentation has provided new insights into the developmental and integrative processes associated with the generation of locomotory behavior during changing life styles. In vitro electrophysiological studies have begun to explore the functional assembly, disassembly and dynamic plasticity of spinal pattern generating circuits as Xenopus undergoes the developmental switch from larval tail-based swimming to adult limb-based locomotion. Major advances have also been made in understanding the developmental onset of multisensory signal processing for reactive gaze and posture stabilizing reflexes during self-motion. Additionally, recent evidence from semi-intact animal and isolated CNS experiments has provided compelling evidence that in Xenopus tadpoles, predictive feed-forward signaling from the spinal locomotor pattern generator are engaged in minimizing visual disturbances during tail-based swimming. This new concept questions the traditional view of retinal image stabilization that in vertebrates has been exclusively attributed to sensory-motor transformations of body/head motion-detecting signals. Moreover, changes in visuomotor demands associated with the developmental transition in propulsive strategy from tail- to limb-based locomotion during metamorphosis presumably necessitates corresponding adaptive alterations in the intrinsic spinoextraocular coupling mechanism. Consequently, Xenopus provides a unique opportunity to address basic questions on the developmental dynamics of neural network assembly and sensory-motor computations for vertebrate motor behavior in general.

PubMed ID: 21834082
Article link: Dev Neurobiol