Motor control pathways in the nervous system of Octopus vulgaris arm

Letizia Zullo, Hadas Eichenstein, Federica Maiole, Binyamin Hochner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The octopus’s arms have virtually infinite degrees of freedom, providing a unique opportunity for studying movement control in a redundant motor system. Here, we investigated the organization of the connections between the brain and arms through the cerebrobrachial tracts (CBT). To do this, we analyzed the neuronal activity associated with the contraction of a small muscle strand left connected at the middle of a long isolated CBT. Both electrical activity in the CBT and muscle contraction could be induced at low threshold values irrespective of stimulus direction and distance from the muscle strand. This suggests that axons associated with transmitting motor commands run along the CBT and innervate a large pool of motor neurons en passant. This type of innervation implies that central and peripheral motor commands involve the simultaneous recruitment of large groups of motor neurons along the arm as required, for example, in arm stiffening, and that the site of movement initiation along the arm may be determined through a unique interplay between global central commands and local sensory signals.


  • Arm
  • En passant
  • Motor control
  • Octopus
  • Peripheral nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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