We discuss ideas emerging from our studies on selective axonal fasciculation in the grasshopper embryo that have implications for the organization of the adult neuropile in insects and perhaps other animals. While one of our laboratories has been studying the embryonic development of the G neurone (in the mesothoracic segment) and its lineal homologues (in other segments), the other has been studying the morphology and physiology of this same neurone and its segmental homologues in the adult nervous system. Our embryonic studies show that the growth cone of the G neurone selectively fasciculates with the A/P fascicle in preference to all other longitudinal axon fascicles at it turns anteriorly. The homologues of G in other thoracic and abdominal segments fasciculate in this same bundle. However, early in their morphological differentiation, they reveal interesting segmental differences. Our studies on the adult nervous system show that the segmental homologues of the G neurone share many properties in common (e.g. axons in the LDT: lateral dorsal tract) while other features are quite different. The notion emerging from these studies is that a basic segmentally-repeated pattern arises during embryogenesis: a stereotyped axonal scaffold upon which growth cones faithfully fasciculate. Evolutionary plasticity allows the specialization of lineally equivalent neurones in different segments within the context of the neuropilar neighbourhood that they find themselves in as a consequence of their selective fasciculation.

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