1. Photoinactivation of dye-filled neurons was used to examine the modulatory role of the paired cerebral giant cells (CGCs) in the Lymnaea feeding system. 2. Both CGCs were filled with fluorescent dyes. Lucifer yellow was used for "soma" kills and injected via intracellular microelectrodes. CGC axons were retrogradely filled with 5 (6)-carboxyfluorescein (5-CF), through the cut ends of the ventro- and lateral buccal nerves, for "axonal" kills. 3. Irradiation of the CGC soma with a blue laser light (0.5 MW/m2) led to a loss of their recorded membrane potentials and the synaptic responses with their postsynaptic cells (feeding motor neurons). CGC coupling and axonal fluorescence were lost after axonal irradiation. 4. The tonic firing rate of CGC axon spikes in peripheral nerve roots following bilateral soma kills was reduced to approximately 15% of preirradiation levels (n = 2; from 52.5 +/- 3.75 spikes/min to 8.2 +/- 0.95 spikes/min; mean +/- SE) but spike activity was not completely eliminated. 5. The fictive feeding rhythm was evoked by depolarizing a modulatory neuron, the slow oscillator (SO), before and after laser irradiation. Thirty minutes after both the CGCs were irradiated (n = 8), the frequency of the SO-driven feeding rhythm was reduced. Mean fictive feeding rates were reduced from 8.3 to 4.5 cycles/min for soma kills (n = 3) and from 16.2 to 9.6 cycles/min for axonal kills (n = 5; P < 0.05). 6. The results suggest that the CGCs play a modulatory role in controlling the frequency of oscillation of the feeding central pattern generator (CPG) in Lymnaea. The SO could still drive a full fictive feeding rhythm after irradiation but at a reduced rate. At least in the soma kills, the residual spike activity retained in the distal branches of the CGCs appeared sufficient to allow the SO to drive this slow rhythm.