Contribution of individual mechanoreceptor sensory neurons to defensive gill-withdrawal reflex in Aplysia

J Neurophysiol. 1978 Mar;41(2):418-31. doi: 10.1152/jn.1978.41.2.418.


1. To evaluate the contribution which mechanoreceptor sensory neurons make to the defensive gill-withdrawal reflex we developed an isolated reflex preparation. We then reduced this isolated reflex to a microcircuit (consisting of a single sensory cell and single motor cell) so as to causally relate the contribution of individual cells to the expression and plastic properties of the behavior. 2. Mechanoreceptor neurons make significant contributions to the amplitude and duration of the complex PSP in the motor neurons. A single spike in a sensory neuron produces an EPSP in the motor neuron which accounts for 7-36% of the complex EPSP produced by weak tactile stimulation of the skin. 3. More than 50% of the synaptic input to the gill motor neurons appears to be monosynaptic. Perfusing the ganglion with solutions of high divalent cations reduced the motor neurons' complex PSP by only 40%. 4. The population response of the mechanoreceptors to a point stimulus can be simulated by repetitively firing a single sensory neuron. Firing a single sensory cell discharges the motor neuron and produces a gill contraction similar to that produced by a natural stimulus. 5. Mechanoreceptors make monosynaptic connections onto gill motor neurons which decrement with repeated stimulation paralleling the decrement of the complex PSP to punctate tactile stimulation of the skin. 6. The results indicate that the known neural elements may quantitatively account for most of the expression of the behavior and its short-term habituation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aplysia / physiology*
  • Gills / physiology*
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / physiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Reflex / physiology*