Development of behavior and learning in Aplysia

E. A. Marcus, T. G. Nolen, C. H. Rankin, M. Stopfer, T. J. Carew

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A set of fundamental issues in neuroethology concerns the neural mechanisms underlying behavior and behavioral plasticity. We have recently analyzed these issues by combining a simple systems approach in the marine mollusc Aplysia with a developmental analysis aimed at examining the emergence and maturation of different forms of behavior and learning. We have focussed on two kinds of questions: 1) How are specific neural circuits developmentally assembled to mediate different types of behaviors? and 2) how is plasticity integrated with these circuits to give rise to different forms of learning? From our analysis of the development of learning and memory in Aplysia, several themes have emerged: 1) Different forms of learning emerge according to different developmental timetables. 2) Cellular analogs of learning have the same developmental timetables as their respective forms of behavioral learing. 3) An analysis of non-decremented responses prior to the emergence of sensitization reveals a novel inhibitory process on both behavioral and cellular levels. 4) Sensitization emerges simultaneously in diverse response systems, suggesting an underlying general process. 5) A widespread proliferation of central neurons occurs in the same developmental stage as the emergence of sensitization, raising the possibility that some aspect of the trigger for neuronal proliferation may also contribute to the expression of sensitization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-423
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1988


  • Aplysia
  • bursting neuron
  • development
  • dishabituation
  • habituation
  • learning
  • locomotion
  • sensitization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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