The Neurobiology of Feeding in Leeches
In The African Queen Humphrey Bogart, finding leeches clinging to his body, expressed a popular sentiment when he exclaimed, "If there's anything in the world I hate, it's leeches-the filthy little devils!" Yet to a neurobiologist the bloodsucking worm is a thing of beauty. Its nervous system is simple and highly organized, and its neurons are large, readily identifiable and accessible to microelectrodes. These features make the leech a particularly useful animal in which to study the activity of specific neurons. Moreover-with a certain poetic justice-the animal's repugnant feeding habits have turned out to provide the vital clues enabling our laboratory to discover the function of an important group of neurons.
© 1988 Scientific American, Inc.