Associative learning in Aplysia: cellular correlates supporting a conditioned fear hypothesis

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Science  30 Jan 1981:
Vol. 211, Issue 4481, pp. 501-504
DOI: 10.1126/science.7455692


Aversive associative learning in Aplysia california survives restraint of the animal and surgical exposure of the central nervous system. The learning is expressed in the intracellularly recorded activity of identified motor neurons mediating three different defensive behaviors: escape locomotion, inking, and siphon withdrawal. In each case, animals that had previously received paired training showed significant facilitation of synaptic input to motor neurons during test stimulation in the presence of the conditioned stimulus. Animals without such training showed no facilitation of input to the motor neurons. Resting potential and input resistance appeared unaffected by conditioning and were not altered by application of the conditioned stimulus. These results show that the conditioned facilitation of defensive responses cannot be explained by subthreshold actions of the conditioned stimulus on the motor neurons and support the hypothesis that Aplysia learn to associate the conditioned stimulus with a fearlike central state.