Isolated midbody ganglia of the leech Hirudo medicinalis were surveyed for interneurons contributing to the dorsal component of the local bending reflex, i.e., to the excitation of dorsal excitatory motor neurons that follows stimulation of dorsal mechanoreceptors responsive to pressure (P cells). Nine types of local bending interneuron could be distinguished on physiological and morphological grounds--8 paired and 1 unpaired cell per ganglion. Synaptic latencies from sensory neurons to interneurons were consistent with a direct or possibly disynaptic pathway. Connections between interneurons appeared to be rare and hyperpolarization of individual interneurons during local bending produced small but reliable decrements in motor neuron response, suggesting that multiple parallel pathways contribute to the behavior. Paradoxically, most interneurons received substantial inputs from ventral as well as dorsal mechanoreceptors, indicating that interneurons that were distinguished by their contribution to dorsal local bending were, in fact, active in ventral and lateral bends as well. The capacity to detect a particular stimulus and produce the appropriate response cannot be localized to particular types of interneuron; rather, it appears to be a distributed property of the entire local bending network.