Conditioning pp 433-449 | Cite as

Analyzing the Rabbit NM Conditioned Reflex Arc

  • John F. Disterhoft
  • Michael T. Shipley
  • Nina Kraus
Part of the Advances in Behavioral Biology book series (ABBI, volume 26)


The nictitating membrane (NM) conditioned reflex arc in rabbit is being analyzed with neurophysiological recording and anatomical tracing techniques. Current studies focus on the tone conditioned stimulus (CS) afferent pathway and the NM extension conditioned response (CR) output motoneurons. Studies are underway to locate and characterize CS-CR linkage regions at the brainstem level.

Single neurons in rabbit auditory association cortex have been monitored during the course of nictitating membrane conditioning. Tone CS evoked unit activity was compared before and after behavioral acquisition. Units from pseudoconditioned rabbits and from rabbits which did not acquire the conditioned response served as controls. The conditioned rabbits had more than twice as many significantly altered responses (51% vs. 19%) during the 250 msec CS-US interval. The whole CS evoked response, or components of it, either increased or decreased. Most changes occurred with a latency of 21–40 msec. Some were as early as 11–20 msec, the latency at which tone information reaches auditory cortex in the naive, conscious rabbit. Auditory cortex unit changes were not evident in the trial sequence until after behavioral acquisition.

The output motoneurons for NM extension have been localized in accessory abducens nucleus with HRP retrograde tracing from the retractor bulbi muscles (whose contraction causes NM extension). Coagulation of the abducens nerve branch traveling to the lateral rectus muscle, with the branch to retractor bulbi left intact, indicated that there may be a few abducens motoneurons which send axons to retractor bulbi. But the primary locus of the motoneurons is clearly accessory abducens. Accessory abducens motoneurons were also shown to be strongly acetylcholinesterase positive, as are other brainstem and spinal motoneurons.


Conditioned Stimulus Auditory Cortex Nictitate Membrane Nictitate Membrane Medial Geniculate Body 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • John F. Disterhoft
    • 1
  • Michael T. Shipley
    • 1
  • Nina Kraus
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cell Biology and AnatomyNorthwestern University Medical SchoolChicagoUSA

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