The Effect of the Perception of Blood on Decision-Making in the Leech

Posted May 26th, 2010 at 2:57 pm.

Maureen Convery and Ghazal Zekavat

Mentor: Dr. Peter Brodfuehrer

There are many factors that influence the behavioral response of an animal to a given stimulus. In the medicinal leech, Hirudu medicinalis , chemical stimuli such as blood are known to increase locomotor activity – swimming and crawling. Recently, Professor Peter Brodfuehrer and his collaborators have shown that the perception of artificial blood in the leeches’ environment changes their behavioral responses elicited by electrical stimulation of the body wall. After foraging for artificial blood, the number of times that body wall stimulation leads to swimming and crawling significantly increases compared to control experiments. In this project, we extend these studies to test whether artificial blood affects the ability of peripheral nerve stimulation to initiate swimming and crawling in a mouth-isolated nerve cord preparation. In addition, we will examine the effect that artificial blood has on neurons and hormones associated with behavioral decision-making.

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