Novel neural correlates of operant conditioning in normal and differentially reared Lymnaea
Journal of Experimental Biology
The aerial respiratory behaviour of the mollusc Lymnaea stagnalis is an important homeostatic behaviour that can be operantly conditioned. The central pattern generator underlying this behaviour, as well as motorneurons innervating the respiratory orifice, the pneumostome, have been identified and their activity can be monitored in the semi-intact preparation using electrophysiological recordings. In this study, we used both intact animals and semi-intact preparations to identify novel changes
... n the respiratory central pattern generator following operant conditioning. In addition, we reared animals in the absence of this respiratory behaviour throughout development, to investigate whether previous experience and activity-dependent plasticity during development are essential to allow neural plasticity in the adult. We found that animals raised normally (allowed to perform aerial respiratory behaviour) exhibited the expected reduction in aerial respiratory behaviour following operant conditioning. Then, using the semi-intact preparation, we identified novel neural changes within the network as a result of the conditioning. These included specific changes at the level of the central pattern generator interneurons, as well as the motor output. In the differentially reared intact animals, there was no behavioural reduction as a result of operant conditioning, although their baseline respiratory behaviour was already significantly reduced as a result of their differential rearing. There were, however, significant differences found in the network parameters in the semi-intact preparation, similar to those observed in normally reared animals. We thus provide evidence for neural plasticity within the network in the absence of significant behavioural changes in differentially reared animals, and show that plasticity was not dependent on previous activity of the network during development.