A molluscan model system in the search for the engram

J Physiol Paris. 2003 Jan;97(1):69-76. doi: 10.1016/j.jphysparis.2003.10.008.


A 3-neuron central pattern generator, whose sufficiency and necessity has been directly demonstrated, mediates aerial respiratory behaviour in the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. This behaviour can be operantly conditioned, and this associative learning is consolidated into long-lasting memory. Depending on the operant conditioning training procedure used the learning can be consolidated into intermediate term (ITM) or long-term memory (LTM). ITM persists for only 2-3 h, whilst LTM persists for days to weeks. LTM is dependent on both altered gene activity and new protein synthesis while ITM is only dependent on new protein synthesis. We have now directly established that one of the 3-CPG neurons, RPeD1, is a site of LTM formation and storage. We did this by ablating the soma of RPeD1 and leaving behind a functional primary neurite capable of mediating the necessary synaptic interactions to drive aerial respiratory behaviour by the 3-neuron CPG. However, following soma ablation the neuronal circuit is only capable of mediating learning and ITM. LTM can no longer be demonstrated. However, if RPeD1's soma is ablated after LTM consolidation memory is still present. Thus the soma is not needed for the retention of LTM. Using a similar strategy it may be possible to block forgetting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology
  • Memory / classification
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Mollusca / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / drug effects
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neurobiology
  • Neurons / classification
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Respiration
  • Time Factors