The buccal ganglion of Aplysia contains a heterogeneous population of peptidergic, radula mechanoafferent (RM) neurons. To investigate their function, two of the larger RM cells (B21, B22) were identified by morphological and electrophysiological criteria. Both are low-threshold, rapidly adapting, mechanoafferent neurons that responded to touch of the radula, the structure that grasps food during ingestive and egestive feeding movements. Sensory responses of the cells consisted of spike bursts at frequencies of 8-35 Hz. Each cell was found to make chemical, electrical, or combined synapses with other sensory neurons, motor neurons and interneurons involved in radula closure and/or protraction-retraction movements of the odontophore. Motor neurons receiving input included the following: B8a/b, B15, and B16, which innervate muscles contributing to radula closing; and B82, a newly identified neuron that innervates the anterodorsal region of the I1/I3 muscles of the buccal mass. B21 and B22 can affect buccal motor programs by way of their connections to interneurons such as B19 and B64. Fast, chemical, excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) produced by RM neurons, such as B21, exhibited strong, frequency-dependent facilitation, a form of homosynaptic plasticity. Firing B21 also produced a slow EPSP in B15 that increased the excitability of the cell. Thus a sensory neuron mediating a behavioral response may have modulatory effects. The data suggest multiple functions for RM neurons including 1) triggering of phase transitions in rhythmic motor programs, 2) adjusting the force of radula closure, 3) switching from biting to swallowing or swallowing to rejection, and 4) enhancing food-induced arousal.