The authors examined changes that develop in the synaptic interactions of sensory and motor nerve cells following surgical lesions to the central nervous system of the leech. In one type of operation an individual ganglion was isolated from the rest of the nervous system by severing all the incoming and outgoing fibers. During the next few wk, marked changes appeared in synaptic interactions. In chronically isolated ganglia inhibitory potentials were recorded in the motoneuron which raises the skin into ridges (the AE cell) following impulses in sensory neurons that respond to pressure (P) or noxious (N) stimuli. In contrast the same AE cell in ganglia taken from normal animals shows excitatory synaptic potentials when the P or N sensory cells are stimulated. Another altered synaptic interaction in ganglia isolated by lesions was that between sensory cells responding to touch and a motoneuron that supplies longitudinal muscles (L cell). Instead of the pure, electrical coupling potential seen normally, a large, additional chemically mediated excitatory potential was also apparent. Some of the changes in synaptic interactions were not restricted to synapses within the isolated ganglion, but appeared gradually over the following yr in successive ganglia along the length of the ventral nerve cord. Indirect evidence suggests that the altered synaptic potentials that became conspicuous after operations are also present but smaller and obscured in normal animals. It is concluded that some synapses in the leech nervous system are more readily changed than others by cutting the connectives. Furthermore, these changes influence in a predictable manner the way in which the animal behaves in response to mechanical stimuli.
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