The tail-elicited tail withdrawal reflex of Aplysia is mediated centrally at tail sensory-motor synapses and exhibits sensitization across multiple temporal domains

Gary T. Philips, Carolyn M. Sherff, Steven A. Menges, Thomas J. Carew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The defensive withdrawal reflexes of Aplysia californica have provided powerful behavioral systems for studying the cellular and molecular basis of memory formation. Among these reflexes the tail-elicited tail withdrawal reflex (T-TWR) has been especially useful. In vitro studies examining the monosynaptic circuit for the T-TWR, the tail sensory-motor (SN-MN) synapses, have identified the induction requirements and molecular basis of different temporal phases of synaptic facilitation that underlie sensitization in this system. They have also permitted more recent studies elucidating the role of synaptic and nuclear signaling during synaptic facilitation. Here we report the development of a novel, compartmentalized semi-intact T-TWR preparation that allows examination of the unique contributions of processing in the SN somatic compartment (the pleural ganglion) and the SN-MN synaptic compartment (the pedal ganglion) during the induction of sensitization. Using this preparation we find that the T-TWR is mediated entirely by central connections in the synaptic compartment. Moreover, the reflex is stably expressed for at least 24 h, and can be modified by tail shocks that induce sensitization across multiple temporal domains, as well as direct application of the modulatory neurotransmitter serotonin. This preparation now provides an experimentally powerful system in which to directly examine the unique and combined roles of synaptic and nuclear signaling in different temporal domains of memory formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-282
Number of pages11
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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