Motor output in hawk moths is encoded at the millisecond-scale across all muscles

January 3 – Febuary 28, 2021

Meeting Abstract

P3-2  Sat Jan 2  Motor output in hawk moths is encoded at the millisecond-scale across all muscles Niebur, T*; Putney, J; Sponberg, S; Georgia Institute of Technology; Georgia Institute of Technology; Georgia Institute of Technology

Major sensory inputs to animal nervous systems are encoded at the millisecond scale in a temporally precise code. Until recently, the role of precise timing in muscle activation and motor output was underappreciated. Animals from moths to birds to mice have been shown to control motor behavior using precise spike timing, but we largely do not know at what scale timing matters in motor systems. Work in Drosophila and Manduca sexta has shown sub-millisecond timing differences cause changes in power output, providing evidence in a few systems and muscles that precise timing is important. However, the question remains unanswered whether individual muscles receive information encoded on different timescales, or if the timescales remain consistent across the muscle set. We recorded simultaneous turning (yaw) torque output and EMG recordings from the 10 primary muscles of Manduca sexta as tethered moths visually tracked a robotic flower moving with a 1 Hz sinusoidal trajectory. we measure the precision of neural spikes used to encode information about movement. We show through two complementary information theoretic methods, including a novel noise corruption method, that the scale of temporal precision in all muscle activations is comparable to many sensory systems. All parts of the motor program encode information at the single millisecond-scale and this scale is consistent across all muscles. This precise timing must either be deconstructed and then reconstructed by the sensorimotor system or is preserved through the system.

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