Long-term injury induced plasticity in Aplysia neurons: Behavioral, electrophysiological, and morphological studies

Michael Flint Dulin, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Nerve injury is known to produce a variety of electrophysiological and morphological neuronal alterations (reviewed by Titmus and Faber, 1990; Bulloch and Ridgeway, 1989; Walters, 1994). Determining if these alterations are adaptive and how they are activated and maintained could provide important insight into basic cellular mechanisms of injury-induced plasticity. Furthermore, characterization of injury-induced plasticity provides a useful assay system for the identification of possible induction signals underlying these neuronal changes. Understanding fundamental mechanisms and underlying induction signals of injury-induced neuronal plasticity could facilitate development of treatment strategies for neural injury and neuropathic pain in humans. This dissertation characterizes long-lasting, injury-induced neuronal alterations using the nervous system of Aplysia californica as a model. These changes are examined at the behavioral, electrophysiological, and morphological levels. Injury-induced changes in the electrophysiological properties of neurons were found that increased the signaling effectiveness of the injured neurons. This increase in signalling effectiveness could act to compensate for partial destruction of the injured neuron's peripheral processes. Recovery of a defensive behavioral response which serves to protect the animal from further injury was found within 2 weeks of injury. For the behavioral recovery to occur, new neural pathways must have been formed between the denervated area and the CNS. This was found to be mediated at least in part by new axonal growth which extended from the injured cell back along the original pathway (i.e. into the injured nerve). In addition, injury produced central axonal sprouting into different nerves that do not usually contain the injured neuron's axons. This could be important for (i) finding alternative pathways to the periphery when the original pathways are impassable and (ii) the formation of additional synaptic connections with post-synaptic targets which would further enhance the signalling effectiveness of the injured cell.

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Recommended Citation

Dulin, Michael Flint, "Long-term injury induced plasticity in Aplysia neurons: Behavioral, electrophysiological, and morphological studies" (1994). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9520975.