The neural circuitry comprising the central pattern generator (CPG) that drives feeding behavior in the great pond snail (Lymnaea stagnalis [L., 1758]) has been worked out. Because the feeding behavior undergoes associative learning and long-term memory (LTM) formation, it provides an excellent opportunity to study the causal neuronal mechanisms of these two processes. In this chapter, we explore some of the possible causal neuronal mechanisms of associative learning of conditioned taste aversion (CTA) and its subsequent consolidation processes into LTM in L. stagnalis. In the CTA training procedure, a sucrose solution, which evokes a feeding response, is used as the conditioned stimulus (CS) and a potassium chloride solution, which causes a withdrawal response, is used as the unconditioned stimulus (US). The pairing of the CS-US alters both the feeding response of the snail and the function of a pair of higher order interneurons in the cerebral ganglia. Following the acquisition of CTA, the polysynaptic inhibitory synaptic input from the higher order interneurons onto the feeding CPG neurons is enhanced, resulting in suppression of the feeding response. These changes in synaptic efficacy are thought to constitute a “memory trace” for CTA in L. stagnalis.
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