Analysis of synaptic depression contributing to habituation of gill-withdrawal reflex in Aplysia californica

J Neurophysiol. 1982 Aug;48(2):431-8. doi: 10.1152/jn.1982.48.2.431.


1. Repeated stimulation of the siphon skin results in short-term habituation of the reflex contractions of the gill (38). The habituation, in turn, is correlated with a depression of the excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) in motor neurons from mechanoreceptor sensory neurons (SN) (7, 16). The present study was undertaken to examine the parametric features of the synaptic depression and gain insights into the mechanisms underlying the reduced transmitter release. 2. Single sensory neuron action potentials were repeatedly elicited with depolarizing current pulses while the amplitude of the resultant EPSPs in the motor neuron was monitored. Synaptic depression varies as a complex function of interstimulus interval (ISI). At an ISI of 1 s, depression is rapid and reaches a plateau at 36% of control. In contrast, the depression at an ISI of 100 s is less pronounced, showing a gradual decay to 65% of control with the 10th EPSP. Surprisingly, there are no significant differences in time course or magnitude of depression across a broad range of intermediate ISIs (3, 10, and 30 s), although depression at these ISIs is intermediate between the 1 and 100 s ISIs. 3. There is also a complex relationship between spike interval and the depression of the second of two EPSPs. Thus, depression of the second of two EPSPs or depression of a train of EPSPs is not a monotonic function of spike interval. Indeed, the data suggest that there may be a slight underlying facilitatory process with short spike intervals. 4. The results also indicate that the recovery of synaptic depression following a train of 10 stimuli is not constant. Shorter spike intervals produce more rapid recovery. 5. These data are inconsistent with a classical depletion model (33) for synaptic depression and indicate that either a single complex function of time and ISI or multiple functions underlie synaptic depression and its recovery at the sensory neuron synapse.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aplysia / physiology
  • Gills / innervation
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / physiology*
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission*