The Ubiquitin System Plays A Role In Synaptic Plasticity And Memory In Aplysia

Eric Kandel and his colleagues—Jimmy Schwartz, Vince Castellucci, Jack Byrne, and Bob Hawkins, along with many others— have used the simple marine mollusk Aplysia californica to great effect to study the behavioral attributes and cellular and molecular mechanisms of learning and memory. Much (but by no means all) of the work in Aplysia has been geared toward understanding the basis of sensitization in this animal. Aplysia has on its dorsum a respiratory gill and siphon complex, which is normally extended when the animal is in the resting state. If the gill or siphon is lightly touched (or experimentally, squirted with a Water-Pic), a defensive withdrawal reflex is elicited in order to protect the gill from potential damage. This defensive withdrawal reflex can undergo both habituation

(by repeated light stimuli) and sensitiza-tion. Sensitization occurs when the animal receives an aversive stimulus, for example a modest tail-shock experimentally. After sensitizing stimulation, the animal exhibits a more robust, longer-lasting gill withdrawal in response to the identical light touch or water squirt.

Initial progress in this system came by way of beginning to understand the neuronal circuitry underlying the defensive withdrawal reflex and the associated modulatory inputs from the tail. One appeal of the Aplysia experimental system was the relatively simple nervous system in the animal, allowing the tracing of significant parts of the circuitry underlying the behavior using electrophysiology techniques. This circuit tracing was greatly facilitated

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