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Cocoon Construction By the Cecropia Silkworm Iii. the Alteration of Spinning Behavior By Chemical and Surgical Techniques

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(1) Surgical procedures performed on the Cecropia silkworm showed that the species-specific mechanism which integrates the construction of the cocoon is localized in the brain. (2) Efforts were made to interfere with the organization or function of the brain mechanism by the use of certain gases and drugs and by localized injuries to the brain itself. (3) It was possible to eliminate or to alter the spinning behavior by treatment of the silkworm with carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, or low tensions of oxygen. (4) After anesthesia for 1 to 2 days in the presence of 40 per cent carbon dioxide, total loss or conspicuous modifications were observed in the subsequent spinning behavior. Since other aspects of sensory and motor behavior apparently remained unimpaired, it is concluded that the carbon dioxide caused more or less permanent derangement in the brain "centers" which integrate cocoon spinning behavior. (5) Carbon monoxide, at suitable pressures, also blocked normal spinning behavior and caused the construction of aberrant structures. But the effects of carbon monoxide were observed only in the presence of the gas and promptly disappeared upon return to air. By use of carbon monoxide it was possible to alter the spinning behavior without detectable effects on other sensory and motor activities. Evidently, by combining with cytochrome oxidase, carbon monoxide interferes with the brain "centers" which govern spinning behavior. (6) Though normal cocoons were spun in the presence of oxygen tensions as low as 3.5 per cent of an atmosphere, still lower tensions caused temporary loss or temporary aberrations in the spinning behavior. (7) Among several drugs which were tested, selective effects on spinning behavior were produced by the injection of critical concentrations of atropine and malononitrile. Strychnine and pilocarpine showed no such selective action. (8) The brain was subjected to specific surgical injuries. Notable effects were produced by macro- and micro-injuries in certain regions but not in others. (9) A detailed study of the internal organization of normal and injured brains showed that the primary centers for the control of spinning behavior are the corpora pedunculata or closely adjacent structures.

Affiliations: 1: The Biological Laboratories, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts


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