A tactile stimulus to the siphon of Aplysia produces a defensive withdrawal reflex consisting of contraction of the siphon, the gill, and the mantle shelf. We studied long-term habituation of this reflex using two types of preparations, one focusing on the siphon component and the other on the gill component of the reflex. Siphon withdrawal, studied in unrestrained animals, showed marked habituation within a single ten-trial training session. Five daily training sessions produced habituaton that built up across days and lasted for at least 3 weeks. Furthermore, spaced training produced significantly longer lasting habituation than massed training. Gill withdrawal, studied in a restrained animal, also showed long-term retention of habituation. Since the neural circuitry of gill withdrawal is relatively well understood, it may be possible to study the cellular mechanisms underlying a long-term behavioral modification.
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