Functional organization and adaptability of a decision-making network in aplysia.

Romuald Nargeot, John Simmers
Front. Neurosci.. 2012-01-01; 6:
DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00113

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1. Front Neurosci. 2012 Jul 26;6:113. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00113. eCollection

Functional organization and adaptability of a decision-making network in aplysia.

Nargeot R(1), Simmers J.

Author information:
(1)Institut de Neurosciences Cognitives et Intégratives d’Aquitaine, Université
Bordeaux, UMR 5287 Bordeaux, France.

Whereas major insights into the neuronal basis of adaptive behavior have been
gained from the study of automatic behaviors, including reflexive and rhythmic
motor acts, the neural substrates for goal-directed behaviors in which
decision-making about action selection and initiation are crucial, remain poorly
understood. However, the mollusk Aplysia is proving to be increasingly relevant
to redressing this issue. The functional properties of the central circuits that
govern this animal’s goal-directed feeding behavior and particularly the neural
processes underlying the selection and initiation of specific feeding actions are
becoming understood. In addition to relying on the intrinsic operation of central
networks, goal-directed behaviors depend on external sensory inputs that through
associative learning are able to shape decision-making strategies. Here, we will
review recent findings on the functional design of the central network that
generates Aplysia’s feeding-related movements and the sensory-derived plasticity
that through learning can modify the selection and initiation of appropriate
action. The animal’s feeding behavior and the implications of decision-making
will be briefly described. The functional design of the underlying buccal network
will then be used to illustrate how cellular diversity and the coordination of
neuronal burst activity provide substrates for decision-making. The contribution
of specific synaptic and neuronal membrane properties within the buccal circuit
will also be discussed in terms of their role in motor pattern selection and
initiation. The ability of learning to “rigidify” these synaptic and cellular
properties so as to regularize network operation and lead to the expression of
stereotyped rhythmic behavior will then be described. Finally, these aspects will
be drawn into a conceptual framework of how Aplysia’s goal-directed circuitry
compares to the central pattern generating networks for invertebrate rhythmic

DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00113
PMCID: PMC3405415
PMID: 22855670

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