Response properties and synaptic connections of mechanoafferent neurons in cerebral ganglion of Aplysia

J Neurophysiol. 1979 Jul;42(4):954-74. doi: 10.1152/jn.1979.42.4.954.


1. The cells of two clusters of small neurons on the ventrocaudal surface of each hemicerebral ganglion of Aplysia were found to exhibit action potentials following tactile stimuli applied to the skin of the head. These neurons appear to be mechanosensory afferents since they possess axons in the nerves innervating the skin and tactile stimulation evokes spikes with no prepotentials, even when the cell bodies are sufficiently hyperpolarized to block some spikes. The mechanosensory afferents may be primary afferents since the sensory response persists after chemical synaptic transmission is blocked by bathing the ganglion and peripheral structures in seawater with a high-Mg2+ and low-Ca2+ content. 2. The mechanosensory afferents are normally silent and are insensitive to photic, thermal, and chemical stimuli. A punctate tactile stimulus applied to a circumscribed region of skin can evoke a burst of spikes. If the stimulus is maintained at a constant forces, the mechanosensory response slowly adapts over a period of seconds. Repeated brief stimuli have little or no effect on spike frequency within a burst. 3. Approximately 81% of the mechanoafferent neurons have a single ipsilateral receptive field. The fields are located on the lips, the anterior tentacles, the dorsal portion of the head, the neck, or the perioral zone. Because many cells have collateral axons in the cerebral connectives, receptive fields elsewhere on the body are a possibility. The highest receptive-field density was associated with the lips. Within each area, receptive fields vary in size and shape. Adjacent fields overlap and larger fields frequently encompass several smaller ones. The features of some fields appear invariant from one animal to the next. A loose form of topographic organization of the mechanoafferent cells was observed. For example, cells located in the medial cluster have lip receptive fields, and most cells in the posterolateral portion of the lateral clusters have tentacle receptive fields. 4. Intracellular stimulation of individual mechanoafferents evokes short and constant-latency EPSPs in putative motor neurons comprising the identified B-cell clusters of the cerebral ganglion. On the basis of several criteria, these EPSPs appear to be several criteria, these EPSPs appear to be chemically mediated and are monosynaptic. 5. Repetitive intracellular stimulation of individual mechanoafferent neurons at low rates results in a gradual decrement in the amplitude of the EPSPs evoked in B cluster neurons. EPSP amplitude can be restored following brief periods of rest, but subsequent stimulation leads to further diminution of the response. 6. A decremented response cannot be restored by strong mechanical stimulation outside the receptive field of the mechanoafferent or by electrical stimulation of the cerebral nerves or connectives...

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aplysia / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Ganglia / cytology
  • Ganglia / physiology*
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Organ Specificity
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Touch / physiology*