Effects of Artificial Blood on Swimming in Leeches

Posted May 10th, 2010 at 10:47 am.

Klaudia Gorska and Rebecca Donatelli

Mentor: Professor Peter Brodfuehrer

The presence of food in an animal’s environment may elicit a nervous system response that affects other behaviors not directly involved in feeding. Previous research in the Brodfeuhrer lab has shown that when the medicinal leech, Hirudo Medicinalis, forages for blood (i.e. a sausage bag containing a solution of artificial blood), the likelihood of eliciting swimming or crawling by stimulation of the skin increases. In addition, it was shown that stimulation following application of artificial blood to the anterior end (mouth and head) of an optherwise isolated nervous system less frequently initiates swimming when compared with stimulation when the anterior end is in pond water. The presence of blood also decreases the duration of individual swim bouts.

The goal of this study is to further our understanding of how sensory input modifys swimming behavior by investigating the effects that artificial blood have on neurons involved in generating swimming. Using isolated anterior end-isolated nervous system preparation, we will record intracellularly from neurons known to be involved in generating swimming while applying artificial blood to the anterior end. Changes in neuronal activity will then be correlated with changes in the ability to initiate swimming.

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