Aging in sensory and motor neurons results in learning failure in Aplysia californica

Andrew T. Kempsell, Lynne A Fieber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

The physiological and molecular mechanisms of age-related memory loss are complicated by the complexity of vertebrate nervous systems. This study takes advantage of a simple neural model to investigate nervous system aging, focusing on changes in learning and memory in the form of behavioral sensitization in vivo and synaptic facilitation in vitro. The effect of aging on the tail withdrawal reflex (TWR) was studied in Aplysia californica at maturity and late in the annual lifecycle. We found that short-term sensitization in TWR was absent in aged Aplysia. This implied that the neuronal machinery governing nonassociative learning was compromised during aging. Synaptic plasticity in the form of short-term facilitation between tail sensory and motor neurons decreased during aging whether the sensitizing stimulus was tail shock or the heterosynaptic modulator serotonin (5-HT). Together, these results suggest that the cellular mechanisms governing behavioral sensitization are compromised during aging, thereby nearly eliminating sensitization in aged Aplysia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0127056
JournalPLoS One
Volume10
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 13 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

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