In vitro analog of classical conditioning of feeding behavior in aplysia.

Publication Date



Learn Mem. 2003 November; 10(6): 478–494.


The feeding behavior of Aplysia californica can be classically conditioned using tactile stimulation of the lips as a conditioned stimulus (CS) and food as an unconditioned stimulus (US). Moreover, several neural correlates of classical conditioning have been identified. The present study extended previous work by developing an in vitro analog of classical conditioning and by investigating pairing-specific changes in neuronal and synaptic properties. The preparation consisted of the isolated cerebral and buccal ganglia. Electrical stimulation of a lip nerve (AT4) and a branch of the esophageal nerve (En2) served as the CS and US, respectively. Three protocols were used: paired, unpaired, and US alone. Only the paired protocol produced a significant increase in CS-evoked fictive feeding. At the cellular level, classical conditioning enhanced the magnitude of the CS-evoked synaptic input to pattern-initiating neuron B31/32. In addition, paired training enhanced both the magnitude of the CS-evoked synaptic input and the CS-evoked spike activity in command-like neuron CBI-2. The in vitro analog of classical conditioning reproduced all of the cellular changes that previously were identified following behavioral conditioning and has led to the identification of several new learning-related neural changes. In addition, the pairing-specific enhancement of the CS response in CBI-2 indicates that some aspects of associative plasticity may occur at the level of the cerebral sensory neurons.


Animals, Aplysia, Association Learning, Conditioning, Classical, Electric Stimulation, Electrophysiology, Feeding Behavior, Neuronal Plasticity, Neurons, Afferent, Synaptic Transmission


PMCID: PMC305463

doi: 10.1101/lm.65303