The octopus vertical lobe modulates short-term learning rate and uses LTP to acquire long-term memory

Curr Biol. 2008 Mar 11;18(5):337-42. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.01.056.


Analyzing the processes and neuronal circuitry involved in complex behaviors in phylogenetically remote species can help us understand the evolution and function of these systems. Cephalopods, with their vertebrate-like behaviors but much simpler brains, are ideal for such an analysis. The vertical lobe (VL) of Octopus vulgaris is a pivotal brain station in its learning and memory system. To examine the organization of the learning and memory circuitry and to test whether the LTP that we discovered in the VL is involved in behavioral learning, we tetanized the VL to induce a global synaptic enhancement of the VL pathway. The effects of tetanization on learning and memory of a passive avoidance task were compared to those of transecting the same pathway. Tetanization accelerated and transection slowed short-term learning to avoid attacking a negatively reinforced object. However, both treatments impaired long-term recall the next day. Our results suggest that the learning and memory system in the octopus, as in mammals [9], is separated into short- and long-term memory sites. In the octopus, the two memory sites are not independent; the VL, which mediates long-term memory acquisition through LTP, also modulates the circuitry controlling behavior and short-term learning.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology*
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Octopodiformes / physiology*