To examine the cellular mechanisms responsible for transition from a short-term to a long-term behavioral modification, a rapid training procedure was developed for producing long-term habituation of the defensive withdrawal of gill and siphon in Aplysia. Four ten-trial training sessions, with 1 1/2-hour intersession intervals, produced habituation that was retained for more than 1 week. This 5-hour procedure could be applied to a test system in the isolated abdominal ganglion where the cellular changes accompanying the acquisition of long-term habituation can be examined. During acquisition, intracellular recordings were obtained from L7, a major gill and siphon motor neuron, and the pattern of was tested 24 hours later, the synaptic decrement was still evident. Thus, a behaviorally meaningful stimulus sequence, consisting of only 40 patterned stimuli, leads to changes in synaptic effectiveness lasting one or more days in a neural pathway involved in short-term habituation of this reflex.
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