A recent study of the development of nonassociative learning in the siphon withdrawal reflex of Aplysia showed that dishabituation (facilitation of an habituated response) and sensitization (facilitation of a nonhabituated response) emerge according to different developmental timetables: dishabituation precedes sensitization by approximately 60 days (Rankin & Carew, 1988). Both forms of facilitation of the reflex were observed within 90 s of an electrical shock to the tail. However, more recent work by Marcus and colleagues (1988) in adult animals revealed that sensitization can have a delayed onset of 20-30 min after a strong tail shock. Since the developmental study of Rankin and Carew (1988) only tested the reflex for 10 min after tail shock, it is possible that sensitization was in fact present at earlier developmental stages, but was undetected. To examine this question, in the present study we utilized a longer (40-50 min) post-shock observation period to determine whether delayed-onset sensitization is exhibited in juvenile Aplysia, and if so, when it is expressed during development. In our first experiment, we found that Early Stage 12 juveniles (80-95 days after metamorphosis) showed significant delayed-onset sensitization 30-50 min after a strong tail shock. In a second experiment, we found that delayed-onset sensitization was absent in Stage 11 animals (20-70 days after metamorphosis). Thus delayed-onset sensitization emerges in Early Stage 12. The fact that the birthdate of delayed-onset sensitization is at least 30 days after that of dishabituation (Rankin & Carew, 1987, 1988) supports the hypothesis that these two forms of nonassociative learning may have at least partly different underlying mechanisms.
ASJC Scopus subject areas