In vitro classical conditioning of abducens nerve discharge in turtles

J. Keifer*, K. E. Armstrong, J. C. Houk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


In vitro classical conditioning of abducens nerve activity was performed using an isolated turtle brainstem-cerebellum preparation by direct stimulation of the cranial nerves. Using a delayed training procedure, the in vitro preparation was presented with paired stimuli consisting of a 1 sec train stimulus applied to the auditory nerve (CS), which immediately preceded a single shock US applied to the trigeminal nerve. Conditioned and unconditioned responses were recorded in the ipsilateral abducens nerve. Acquisition exhibited a positive slope of conditioned responding in 60% of the preparations. Application of unpaired stimuli consisting of CS-alone, alternate CS and US, or backward conditioning failed to result in conditioning, or resulted in extinction of CRS. Latencies of CR onset were timed such that they occurred midway through the CS. Activity-dependent uptake of the dye sulforhodamine was used to examine the spatial distribution of neurons labeled during conditioning. These data showed label in the cerebellum and red nucleus during conditioning whereas these regions failed to label during unconditioned responses. Furthermore, the principal abducens nucleus labeled heavily during conditioning. These findings suggest the feasibility of examining classical conditioning in a vertebrate in vitro brainstem-cerebellum preparation. It is postulated that the abducens nerve CR represents a behavioral correlate of a blink-related eye movement. Multiple sites of conditioning are hypothesized, including the cerebellorubral circuitry and brainstem pathways that activate the principal abducens nucleus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5036-5048
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number7 I
StatePublished - Jul 1995


  • abducens nerve
  • classical conditioning
  • in vitro
  • positive feedback
  • sulforhodamine
  • turtle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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