In vitro analog of operant conditioning in aplysia. I. Contingent reinforcement modifies the functional dynamics of an identified neuron.
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Previously, an analog of operant conditioning in Aplysia was developed using the rhythmic motor activity in the isolated buccal ganglia. This analog expressed a key feature of operant conditioning, namely a selective enhancement in the occurrence of a designated motor pattern by contingent reinforcement. Different motor patterns generated by the buccal central pattern generator were induced by monotonic stimulation of a peripheral nerve (i.e., n.2,3). Phasic stimulation of the esophageal nerve (E n.) was used as an analog of reinforcement. The present study investigated the neuronal mechanisms associated with the genesis of different motor patterns and their modifications by contingent reinforcement. The genesis of different motor patterns was related to changes in the functional states of the pre-motor neuron B51. During rhythmic activity, B51 dynamically switched between inactive and active states. Bursting activity in B51 was associated with, and predicted, characteristic features of a specific motor pattern (i.e., pattern I). Contingent reinforcement of pattern I modified the dynamical properties of B51 by decreasing its resting conductance and threshold for eliciting plateau potentials and thus increased the occurrences of pattern I-related activity in B51. These modifications were not observed in preparations that received either noncontingent reinforcement (i.e., yoke control) or no reinforcement (i.e., control). These results suggest that a contingent reinforcement paradigm can regulate the dynamics of neuronal activity that is centrally programmed by the intrinsic cellular properties of neurons.
author list (cited authors)
Nargeot, R., Baxter, D. A., & Byrne, J. H.
complete list of authors
Nargeot, R||Baxter, DA||Byrne, JH