The marine mollusc Aplysia californica exhibits a complex, rhythmic motor response, head-waving, in a variety of naturally occurring behavioral contexts. A cellular analysis of this behavior would be greatly facilitated by achieving stimulus control over the response. We have found that such stimulus control can be readily achieved by exposing a head-waving animal to a directional light source, which rapidly elicits a positive phototactic response: the animal either swings its head to face the light or biases its head waving toward the light source. Moreover, we have found that the neural pathways from the principal photoreceptive organs of Aplysia, the eyes and rhinophores, must be intact for the normal execution of this phototactic response: animals with chronic transection of the optic and rhinophore nerves show no phototactic behavior, whereas sham-operated animals continue to exhibit normal phototaxis.
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