Understanding fully the operation of a neural circuit requires both a description of the individual neurones within the circuit as well as the characterization of their synaptic interactions. These aims are often particularly difficult to achieve in neural circuits containing electrically-coupled neurones. In recent years two new methods (photoinactivation after Lucifer Yellow injection and intracellular injection of pronase) have been employed to delete selectively single neurones or small groups of neurones from neural circuits. These techniques have been successfully used in the analysis of circuits containing electrically-coupled neurones. In several systems new roles for electrical synapses in the integrative function of neural circuits have been proposed. In the nervous systems of both the leech and lobster it is now thought that synaptic interactions previously thought to be direct are mediated through an interposed, electrically-coupled neurone. In the pyloric system of the stomatogastric ganglion of the lobster, Panulirus interruptus, the Lucifer Yellow photoinactivation technique has permitted a separate analysis of the properties of several electrically-coupled neurones previously thought quite similar. We now know that the Anterior Burster (AB) interneurone and the Pyloric Dilator (PD) motor neurones, which together act as the pacemaker ensemble for the pyloric network, differ in many regards including their intrinsic ability to generate bursting pacemaker potentials, their neurotransmitters, their sensitivity to some neurotransmitters and hormones, the neural inputs they receive and their pattern of synaptic connectivity. These results will be discussed in the context of the role of electrical coupling in neuronal integration.

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