Impairment of long-term associative memory in aging snails (Lymnaea stagnalis)

Behav Neurosci. 2007 Dec;121(6):1400-14. doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.121.6.1400.


Age-dependent impairment in learning and memory functions occurs in many animal species, including humans. Although cell death contributes to age-related cognitive impairment in pathological forms of aging, learning and memory deficiencies develop with age even without substantial cell death. The molecular and cellular basis of this biological aging process is not well understood but seems to involve a decline in the aging brain's capacity for experience-dependent plasticity. To aid in resolving this issue, we used a simple snail appetitive classical conditioning paradigm in which the underlying molecular, cellular, and neural network functions can be directly linked to age-associated learning and memory performance (i.e., the Lymnaea stagnalis feeding system). Our results indicate that age does not affect the acquisition of appetitive memory but that retention and/or consolidation of long-term memory become progressively impaired with advancing age. The latter phenomenon correlates with declining electrophysiological excitability in key neurons controlling the feeding behavior. Together, these results present the Lymnaea feeding system as a powerful paradigm for investigations of cellular and molecular foundations of biological aging in the brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Age Factors
  • Aging*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cerebellum / cytology
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Snails / physiology*
  • Sucrose / pharmacology
  • Sweetening Agents / pharmacology
  • Time Factors


  • Sweetening Agents
  • Sucrose