Generalization of habituation and intrinsic sensitization in the leech

Brian D. Burrell, Christie L. Sahley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Using the shortening reflex of the medicinal leech Hirudo medicinalis we examined stimulus generalization of habituation learning. Preparations received mechanosensory stimulus at two positions on the leech body wall, one site used to carry out habituation training and a second novel site to test for generalization of habituation. After training, the specific mechanosensory neurons activated by each stimulus were assessed using intracellular recordings. As expected, the closer the two sites were to each other, the greater the degree of generalization of habituation at the novel site and the more sensory cells were shared. However, a form of behavioral facilitation was observed at the trained site that resembled behavioral sensitization, but differed from the standard sensitization process in several respects. (1) Facilitation was induced by stimulation of the novel site before habituation training at the trained site, although the stimulus intensity at the novel site was equivalent to the training stimuli and was not the strong, noxious stimuli that normally induce sensitization. (2) The magnitude of the facilitating effect was proportional to the proximity of the novel and trained stimulation sites. (3) Although behavior at the trained site was facilitated, behavior at the novel site was habituated, indicating that the induced behavioral facilitation did not generalize throughout the animal, as normally occurs during sensitization, but was limited to a single stimulus-response pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-419
Number of pages15
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Generalization of habituation and intrinsic sensitization in the leech'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this