Differential classical conditioning of a defensive withdrawal reflex in Aplysia californica

Science  28 Jan 1983:
Vol. 219, Issue 4583, pp. 397-400
DOI: 10.1126/science.6681571


The defensive siphon and gill withdrawal reflex of Aplysia is a simple reflex mediated by a well-defined neural circuit. This reflex exhibits classical conditioning when a weak tactile stimulus to the siphon is used as a conditioned stimulus and a strong shock to the tail is used as an unconditioned stimulus. The siphon withdrawal component of this reflex can be differentially conditioned when stimuli applied to two different sites on the mantle skin (the mantle shelf and the siphon) are used as discriminative stimuli. The differential conditioning can be acquired in a single trial, is retained for more than 24 hours, and increases in strength with increased trials. Differential conditioning can also be produced within the field of innervation of a single cluster of sensory neurons (the LE cluster) since two separate sites on the siphon skin can serve as discriminative stimuli. The finding that two independent afferent inputs that activate a common set of interneurons and motor neurons can be differentially conditioned restricts the possible cellular loci involved in the associative learning.

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