Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Processing of mechanosensory information from gustatory receptors on a hind leg of the locust


Gustatory receptors (basiconic sensilla) on the legs of the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria, are innervated by chemosensory afferents and by a mechanosensory afferent. We show, for the first time, that these mechanosensory afferents form an elaborate detector system with the following properties: 1) they have low threshold displacement angles that decrease with increasing stimulus frequency in the range 0.05–1 Hz, 2) they respond phasically to deflections of the receptor shaft and adapt rapidly to repetitive stimulation, 3) they encode the velocity of the stimulus in their spike frequency and have velocity thresholds lower than 1°/s, and 4) they are directionally sensitive, so that stimuli moving proximally towards the coxa elicit the greatest response.

The mechanosensory afferents, but not the chemosensory afferents, make apparently monosynaptic connections with spiking local interneurones in a population with somata at the ventral midline of the metathoracic ganglion. They evoke excitatory synaptic potentials that can sum to produce spikes in the spiking local interneurones. Stimulation of the single mechanosensory afferent of a gustatory receptor can also give rise to long lasting depolarizations, or to bursts of excitatory postsynaptic potentials in the interneurones that can persist for several seconds after the afferent spikes. These interneurones are part of the local circuitry involved in the production of local movements of a leg. The mechanosensory afferents from gustatory receptors must, therefore, be considered as part of the complex array of exteroceptors that provide mechanosensory information to these local circuits for use in adjusting, or controlling locomotion.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bacon JP, Murphey RK (1984) Receptive fields of cricket giant interneurones are related to their dendritic structure. J Physiol (Lond) 352:601–623

  2. Blaney WM (1974) Electrophysiological responses of the terminal sensilla on the maxillary palps of Locusta migratoria (L.) to some electrolytes and non-electrolytes. J Exp Biol 60:275–293

  3. Blaney WM (1975) Behavioural and electrophysiological studies of taste discrimination by the maxillary palps of the larvae of Locusta migratoria (L.). J Exp Biol 62:555–569

  4. Blaney WM, Chapman RF (1969) The fine structure of the terminal sensilla on the maxillary palps of Schistocerca gregaria (Forskål) (Orthoptera, Acrididae). Z Zellforsch 99:74–97

  5. Buño W, Monti-Bloch L, Crispino L (1981) Dynamic properties of cockroach cereal “bristlelike” hair sensilla. J Neurobiol 12:101–121

  6. Burrows M (1985) The processing of mechanosensory information by spiking local interneurons in the locust. J Neurophysiol 54:463–478

  7. Burrows M (1987) Parallel processing of proprioceptive signals by spiking local interneurons and motor neurons in the locust. J Neurosci 7:1064–1080

  8. Burrows M (1992a) Reliability and effectiveness of transmission from exteroceptive sensory neurones to spiking local interneurones in the locust. J Neurosci 12:1477–1489

  9. Burrows M (1992b) Local circuits for the control of leg movements in an insect. Trends Neurosci 15:226–232

  10. Burrows M, Newland PL (1993) Correlation between the receptive fields of locust interneurons, their dendritic morphology, and the central projections of mechanosensory neurons. J Comp Neurol 329:412–426

  11. Burrows M, Siegler MVS (1984) The morphological diversity and receptive fields of spiking local interneurones in the locust metathoracic ganglion. J Comp Neurol 224:483–508

  12. Burrows M, Laurent GJ, Field LH (1988) Proprioceptive inputs to nonspiking local interneurons contribute to local reflexes of a locust hindleg. J Neurosci 8:3085–3093

  13. Burrows M, Watson AHD, Brunn DE (1989) Physiological and ultrastructural characterization of a central synaptic connection between identified motor neurons in the locust. Europ J Neurosci 1:111–126

  14. Chapman RF (1982) Chemoreception: the significance of receptor numbers. Adv Insect Physiol 16:247–356

  15. Dethier VG (1972) Sensitivity of the contact chemoreceptors of the blowfly to vapors. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 69:2189–2192

  16. Dethier VG (1976) The hungry fly. A physiological study of the behavior associated with feeding. Harvard University Press, Cambridge

  17. Drewes CD, Bernard RA (1976) Electrophysiological responses of chemosensitive sensilla in the wolf spider. J Exp Zool 198:423–435

  18. Hodgson ES, Lettvin JY, Roeder KD (1955) Physiology of a primary chemoreceptor unit. Science 122:417–418

  19. Kendall MD (1970) The anatomy of the tarsi of Schistocerca gregaria Forskål. Z Zellforsch 109:112–137

  20. Klein U (1981) Sensilla of the cricket palp. Fine structure and spatial organization. Cell Tissue Res 219:229–252

  21. Kondoh Y, Arima T, Okuma J, Hasegawa Y (1991) Filter characteristics of cereal afferents in the cockroach. J Comp Physiol A 169:653–662

  22. Laurent GJ, Burrows M (1988a) Direct excitation of nonspiking local interneurones by exteroceptors underlies tactile reflexes in the locust. J Comp Physiol A 162:563–572

  23. Laurent G, Burrows M (1988b) A population of ascending intersegmental interneurones in the locust with mechanosensory inputs from a hind leg. J Comp Neurol 275:1–12

  24. Laurent GJ, Hustert R (1988) Motor neuronal receptive fields delimit patterns of activity during locomotion of the locust. J Neurosci 8:4349–4366

  25. Matheson T (1992) Morphology of the central projections of physiologically characterised neurones from the locust metathoracic femoral chordotonal organ. J Comp Physiol A 170:101–120

  26. Mitchell BK, Itagaki H (1992) Interneurons of the subesophageal ganglion of Sarcophaga bullata responding to gustatory and mechanosensory stimuli. J Comp Physiol A 171:213–230

  27. Murphey, RK, Bacon JP, Johnson SE (1985) Ectopic neurons and the organization of insect sensory systems. J Comp Physiol A 156:381–389

  28. Murphey RK, Possidente D, Pollack G, Merritt D (1989) Modality-specific axonal organization of insect sensory systems. J Comp Neurol 290:185–200

  29. Nagayama T (1989) Morphology of a new population of spiking local interneurones in the locust metathoracic ganglion. J Comp Neurol 283:189–211

  30. Nagayama T, Burrows M (1990) Input and output connections of an anteromedial group of spiking local interneurones in the metathoracic ganglion of the locust. J Neurosci 10:785–794

  31. Newland PL (1990) The morphology of a population of mechanosensory ascending interneurones in the metathoracic ganglion of the locust. J Comp Neurol 299:242–260

  32. Newland PL (1991a) Physiological properties of tactile hair afferents on the hind leg of the locust. J Exp Biol 155:487–503

  33. Newland PL (1991b) Morphology and somatotopic organisation of the central projections of afferents from tactile hairs on the hind leg of the locust. J Comp Neurol 311:1–16

  34. Palka J, Levine R, Schubiger M (1977) The cercus-to-giant interneuron system of crickets. I. Some attributes of the sensory cells. J Comp Physiol 119:267–283

  35. Pflüger HJ (1980) The function of hair sensilla on the locust's leg: the role of tibial hairs. J Exp Biol 87:163–175

  36. Pflüger HJ, Bräunig P, Hustert R (1988) The organisation of mechanosensory neuropiles in locust thoracic ganglia. Phil Trans R Soc Lond 321:1–26

  37. Siegler MVS, Burrows M (1983) Spiking local interneurons as primary integrators of mechanosensory information in the locust. J Neurophysiol 50:1281–1295

  38. Siegler MVS, Burrows M (1984) The morphology of two groups of spiking local interneurons in the metathoracic ganglion of the locust. J Comp Neurol 224:463–4482

  39. Siegler MVS, Burrows M (1986) Receptive fields of motor neurons underlying local tactile reflexes in the locust. J Neurosci 6:507–513

  40. Simpson SJ (1992) Mechanoresponsive neurones in the sub-oesophageal ganglion of the locust. Physiol Entomol 17:351–369

  41. Shimozawa T, Kanou M (1984) Varieties of filiform hairs: range fractionation by sensory afferents and cereal interneurons of a cricket. J Comp Physiol A 155:485–493

  42. Städler E, Hanson FE (1975) Olfactory capabilities of the “gustatory” chemoreceptors of the tobacco hornworm larvae. J Comp Physiol 104:97–102

  43. Tautz J (1978) Reception of medium vibration by thoracal hairs of caterpillars of Barathra brassicae L. (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae). II. Response characteristics of the sensory cell. J Comp Physiol 125:67–77

  44. Trimmer BA, Weeks JC (1991) Activity-dependent induction of facilitation, depression, and post-tetanic potentiation at an insect central synapse. J Comp Physiol A 168:27–43

  45. Westin J (1979) Responses to wind recorded from the cereal nerve of the cockroach Periplaneta americana. I. Response properties of single sensory neurons. J Comp Physiol 133:97–102

  46. White PR, Chapman RF (1990) Tarsal chemoreception in the polyphagous grasshopper Schistocerca americana: behavioural assays, sensilla distributions and electrophysiology. Physiol Entomol 15:105–121

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to P. L. Newland.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Newland, P.L., Burrows, M. Processing of mechanosensory information from gustatory receptors on a hind leg of the locust. J Comp Physiol A 174, 399–410 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00191706

Download citation

Key words

  • Locust
  • Basiconic sensilla
  • Mechanoreception
  • Chemoreception
  • Spiking local interneurones