The terrestrial slug Limax has been used as a model animal for studying the neural mechanisms underlying associative olfactory learning. The slug also innately exhibits negative phototactic behavior using its eyes. In the present study, we developed an experimental paradigm for quantification of slug's negative phototaxis behavior, and investigated whether the nature of the negative phototaxis can be modified by learning experience. The experimental set-up consists of light and dark compartments, between which the slug can move freely. During conditioning, the slug was placed in the light compartment, and an aversive stimulus (quinidine sulfate solution) was applied when it reached the dark compartment. After a single conditioning session, the time to reach the dark compartment significantly increased when it was tested following 24 hr or one week. Protein synthesis inhibition immediately following the conditioning impaired the memory retention at one week but not at 24 hr. The retrieval of the memory was context-dependent, as the time to reach the dark compartment did not significantly increase if the slug was placed on a floor with a different texture in the memory retention test. If the aversive stimulus was applied when the slug was in the light compartment, the time to reach the dark compartment did not increase after 24 hr. This is the first report demonstrating the capability of the slug to form context-dependent passive avoidance memory that can be established in a single conditioning session.
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Vol. 34 • No. 6