Discriminative behavior and Pavlovian conditioning in the mollusc Pleurobranchaea

J Neurobiol. 1986 Sep;17(5):469-86. doi: 10.1002/neu.480170509.


The buccal motor system in the sea slug Pleurobranchaea californica is multifunctional; similar sets of neurons and muscles generate different behaviors through similar electrophysiological motor patterns. Such multifunctional systems compromise the traditional practice of identifying a motor pattern and then using that pattern to indicate the behavior in reduced preparations. We address this issue in a series of experiments leading to the comparison of differential Pavlovian conditioning in whole animals with the conditioned behavior of the same animals during electrophysiological recording. Because differential conditioning requires two conditioned stimuli (CSs), we show here that each of two CSs activated the conditioned response from animals after they received the stimulus (CS+) paired with an unconditioned stimulus (UCS). Conditioning sessions consisted of 5 training trials with a 2-h intertrial interval. In one study, experimental animals received a 60-s CS+, derived from beer (Sbr), paired with a 50-s electrical shock UCS whose onset occurred 10 s after the CS+ onset; control animals received the Sbr and UCS explicitly unpaired. In a second study, animals received similar procedures as in the first but with a CS+ consisting of squid homogenate (Ssq). Tests with both CSs showed that animals did not discriminate between Sbr and Ssq before beginning conditioning, but did so afterward. Experimental animals exhibited robust food aversion (withdrawal and suppressed feeding) to the CS+, but retained strong appetitive responses to the CS they did not receive in training; response thresholds to the CS+ changed as much as 1000-fold by comparison to the preconditioning values. Control animals exhibited similar though significantly smaller behavioral changes as the experimental animals. Both stimuli evoked associatively learned responses, but Sbr produced greater experimental-control differences than Ssq did. Two accompanying papers show the results of using both CSs in differential conditioning, and describe the behavioral/electrophysiological comparisons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Classical*
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Electroshock
  • Food
  • Food Preferences
  • Mollusca
  • Motor Activity