Habituation and sensitization to an electrical shock in the crab Chasmagnathus. Effect of background illumination

Physiol Behav. 1991 Sep;50(3):477-87. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(91)90533-t.


The escape response of the crab Chasmagnathus granulatus, elicited by an electrical leg-shock, wanes as a consequence of repeated stimulation, and the decrease persists after a 24-h rest interval. Results concerning stimulus specificity in within- and between-sessions habituation strongly indicate that neither motor fatigue nor sensory adaptation nor damage can account for the response waning, which thus meets the major criteria of habituation. A comparison between the escape response habituation to leg-shock and that to a shadow passing overhead discloses clearcut differences. The shock curve shows an initial hump positively related to stimulus intensity, suggesting that a shock-induced sensitization along with habituation subserves the response curve. The curve asymptote is remarkably high and, unlike the initial waning portion, not greatly affected by treatment changes, hinting that the response may be the combination of an escape response and a basal one (an undirected burst of activity). The waning portion is higher when shocks are given in dark than when given in light, but this effect is not considered as an extra eliciting-stimulus-induced sensitization, since the reactivity enhancement depends necessarily on the darkness-shock concomitance, regardless of prior exposure to darkness. Accordingly, the hypothesis that crab habituates not only to a shock but to a complex stimulus (shock + background illumination) is put forward and discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brachyura / physiology*
  • Darkness
  • Electroshock*
  • Escape Reaction / physiology
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / physiology*
  • Light*