Habituation of swimming activity in the medicinal leech.

TitleHabituation of swimming activity in the medicinal leech.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1985
JournalThe Journal of experimental biology

Tactile stimulation (light stroking) of a body wall flap attached to the ventral nerve cord of the medicinal leech evokes episodes of swimming activity. This swimming response undergoes habituation, involving changes in swim initiation and swim maintenance. Repeated stimulation of the body wall flap evoked swimming activity between three and 39 times before this response failed. During repetitive stimulation, the length of swim episodes decreased by about 50%. The number of swim episodes which could be elicited was not correlated with swim episode length. Following habituation, swim initiation showed significant spontaneous recovery, but swim episode length returned only to 60% of control values. In preparations where spontaneous recovery was followed by rehabituation, the number of swim episodes elicited declined with each habituation-recovery sequence. Additional stimulation immediately following habituation trials had a dual effect: recovery of the swimming response was delayed, but the lengths of swim episodes following spontaneous recovery were increased. Pinching the body wall flap immediately restored the swimming response in an habituated preparation. Swim initiation habituated more rapidly during stimulation of anterior body wall flaps than during stimulation of mid-body or posterior flaps. However, swim length was independent of this regional variation in swim responsiveness. The number of swim episodes elicited by stimulation of body wall flaps attached to posterior or anterior segments depended upon whether this segment was stimulated before or after other flaps. In contrast, in mid-body segments there was no evidence for such stimulus generalization. The lengths of swim episodes elicited during sequential stimulation of several body wall flaps were independent of the stimulation sequence. We propose that separate processes control swim initiation and swim maintenance. These processes must be repeated in most, if not all, of the segmental ganglia of the leech ventral nerve cord.

Short TitleJ Exp Biol
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