Quantitative Analysis of the Relation Between Gill Amplitude and Siphon Duration in the Defensive Withdrawal Reflex of Aplysia

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The defensive withdrawal reflex of the mantle organs (gill, siphon, and mantle shelf) of the marine mollusc Aplysia californica has been the subject of numerous studies investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of learning. In behavioral experiments, the reflex has been monitored by means of two different response measures, either siphon duration (in unrestrained, freely moving animals) or gill amplitude (in restrained preparations). It has generally been assumed that one component of the reflex provides a reliable index of the other. In the present study, we directly tested this assumption by simultaneously measuring both response parameters in the same experiment. Reflex response magnitude was varied in two ways: (a) by systematically varying stimulus intensity, and (b) by holding the stimulus intensity constant, but delivering stimuli at a rate that produced significant habituation. Using both measures we found that gill amplitude and siphon duration were highly correlated (average correlation = .90). Thus our data show that either response measure can serve as a reliable estimate of the overall reflex response.

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