Release of a single neurotransmitter from an identified interneuron coherently affects motor output on multiple timescales.
Neurotransmitters can have diverse effects that occur over multiple timescales often making the consequences of neurotransmission difficult to predict. To explore the consequences of this diversity we used the buccal ganglion of Aplysia to examine the effects of GABA release by a single interneuron, B40, on the intrinsic properties and motor output of the radula closure neuron B8. B40 induces a picrotoxin sensitive fast IPSP lasting milliseconds in B8 and a slow EPSP lasting seconds. We found that the excitatory effects of this slow EPSP are also mediated by GABA. Together, these two GABAergic actions structure B8 firing in a pattern characteristic of ingestive programs. Furthermore, we found that repeated B40 stimulation induces a persistent increase in B8 excitability which was occluded in the presence of the GABA B receptor agonist baclofen, suggesting that GABA affects B8 excitability over multiple timescales. The phasing of B8 activity during the feeding motor programs determines the nature of the behavior elicited during that motor program. The persistent increase in B8 excitability induced by B40 biased the activity of B8 during feeding motor programs causing the motor programs to become more ingestive in nature. Thus, a single transmitter released from a single interneuron can have consequences for motor output that are expressed over multiple timescales. Importantly, despite the differences in their signs and temporal characteristics the 3 actions of B40 are coherent in that they promote B8 firing patterns that are characteristic of ingestive motor outputs.