Parallel processing of short-term memory for sensitization in Aplysia

J Neurobiol. 1988 Jun;19(4):297-334. doi: 10.1002/neu.480190402.


How is the short-term memory for a single form of learning distributed among the various elements of a neuronal circuit? To answer this question, we examined the short-term memory for sensitization, using the siphon component of the defensive gill- and siphon-withdrawal reflex. We found that the memory for short-term sensitization is represented by at least four sites of circuit modification, each involving a different type of plasticity. These include (1) presynaptic facilitation of the sensory neuron connections onto both interneurons and motorneurons; (2) presynaptic inhibition at the connections of the L30 inhibitory neurons onto the excitatory interneuron L29; (3) posttetanic potentiation of the excitatory connections made by L29 onto a specific subclass of siphon motorneurons, the LFS cells; and (4) an increase in the tonic firing rate of the LFS siphon motor neurons, resulting in neuromuscular facilitation. Each of the heterosynaptic changes seems to involve a common modulatory transmitter and to utilize a common second messenger system. Moreover, each of these sites seems capable of encoding a different component of the short-term memory. Facilitation of the connections of sensory neurons should contribute to the increase in amplitude of the response; the disinhibition of the L29 interneurons and the posttetanic potentiation at L29 synapses should contribute to an increase in the duration of the response; and the increase in tonic firing of the LFS subclass of siphon motor neurons seems capable of contributing both to an increase in response amplitude and to changes in response topography.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aplysia / physiology*
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials* / drug effects
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Reflex / physiology