Functional and motor neuronal analysis of defensive siphon responses in Aplysia californica

Christopher Paul Hickie, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


One of the central goals of neuroscience research is to determine how networks of neurons control and modify behavior. One of the most influential model systems for this kind of analysis is the siphon and gill withdrawal reflex of the marine mollusc A. californica. In response to tactile stimulation, the siphon displays 3 different responses: (1) a posterior pointing and leveling (flaring) of the siphon in response to tail stimulation (the siphon T response), (2) constriction and anterior pointing to head stimulation (the siphon H response) and (3) constriction and withdrawal between the animal's parapodia (the siphon S response). The siphon S response is pseudoconditioned by a noxious tail stimulus to resemble the siphon T response. Behavioral and combined behavioral/intracellular studies were conducted to determine the motor neuronal control of these behaviors and to search for mechanisms of siphon response transformation following pseudoconditioning. The present studies have found that the flaring component of pseudoconditioned siphon S responses occurs during mantle pumping (MP) triggered by noxious tail stimulation. Siphon stimulation also triggers MP, as recorded in neurons of the Interneuron II pattern generator which commands MP. The 4 LF$\rm\sb{SB}$ siphon motor neurons (SMNs) were found necessary and sufficient for the siphon T response, while SMNs RD$\rm\sb S$ and LD$\rm\sb{S1}$ were found necessary and sufficient for the siphon H response. Following pseudoconditioning, there is an increase in the number of evoked spikes to the test stimulus for the LF$\rm\sb{SB}$ cells and a decreased number for RD$\rm\sb S.$ Siphon flaring occurring during the pseudoconditioned response correlates with increased LF$\rm\sb{SB}$ activity during triggered MP cycles. This suggests that psuedoconditioning is in part due to reconfiguration of the motor outputs of the Interneuron II network. These results suggest that these defensive responses are controlled and patterned by a well-defined, finite set of motor neurons and interneurons (Interneuron II) that are dedicated to specific behavioral functions, but also have parallel distributed properties.

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Recommended Citation

Hickie, Christopher Paul, "Functional and motor neuronal analysis of defensive siphon responses in Aplysia californica" (1994). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9504714.