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Studying the isolated central nervous system; a report on 35 years: more inquisitive than acquisitive.

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  • 1Department of Neurophysiology, Southampton University, UK.


1. The CNS from invertebrate animals such as slugs, snails, leeches, and cockroaches, can be isolated and kept alive for many hours. 2. The electrical and pharmacological properties of invertebrate CNS neurons have many similarities and it is probable that the basic rules governing the CNS evolved more than 600 million years ago. 3. The nerve cells can show sodium action potentials, calcium action potentials, EPSP, IPSP, biphasic potentials, electrogenic sodium pump potentials, and a variety of potassium, sodium, calcium and chloride currents. 4. Invertebrate CNS ganglia contain identifiable individual nerve cells whose properties and responses to neurotransmitters and drugs are constant and repeatable from preparation to preparation. 5. It was possible to set up an isolated CNS-nerve trunk-muscle preparation and study the transport of radioactive material from the CNS to the muscle and from muscle to CNS. This has provided information about axoplasmic transport in both invertebrate and vertebrate preparations. 6. The methods developed from studies of invertebrate isolated CNS preparations have been applied to vertebrate isolated CNS preparations. 7. In addition to thin slices of the mammalian brain, it is possible to keep 5 cm lengths of the whole mammalian spinal cord and brain stem alive for many hours. 8. The isolated mammalian spinal cord has functional ipsilateral and contralateral reflexes, ascending and descending pathways, extensive sensory integrative local area networks, and inhibitory interneuron circuits. Much of the in vivo circuitry is functional in vitro. 9. The isolated mammalian spinal cord and brain stem can be developed to include functional higher brain circuits that will provide increased understanding of the control and integrative action of the mammalian central nervous system.

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