The pyloric rhythm of the stomatogastric ganglion of the crab, Cancer borealis, slows or stops when descending modulatory inputs are acutely removed. However, the rhythm spontaneously resumes after one or more days in the absence of neuromodulatory input. We recorded continuously for days to characterize quantitatively this recovery process. Activity bouts lasting 40-900 s began several hours after removal of neuromodulatory input and were followed by stable rhythm recovery after 1-4 days. Bout duration was not related to the intervals (0.3-800 min) between bouts. During an individual bout, the frequency rapidly increased and then decreased more slowly. Photoablation of back-filled neuromodulatory terminals in the stomatogastric ganglion (STG) neuropil had no effect on activity bouts or recovery, suggesting that these processes are intrinsic to the STG neuronal network. After removal of neuromodulatory input, the phase relationships of the components of the triphasic pyloric rhythm were altered, and then over time the phase relationships moved toward their control values. Although at low pyloric rhythm frequency the phase relationships among pyloric network neurons depended on frequency, the changes in frequency during recovery did not completely account for the change in phase seen after rhythm recovery. We suggest that activity bouts represent underlying mechanisms controlling the restructuring of the pyloric network to allow resumption of an appropriate output after removal of neuromodulatory input.
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