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Neurobiology of the Leech

Subject Area(s):  Developmental BiologyCell BiologyNeurobiology

Edited by Kenneth J. Muller, Carnegie Institution of Washington; John G. Nicholls, Stanford University School of Medicine; Gunther S. Stent, University of California, Berkeley

© 1981 • 320 pp., illus., bibliography, indexes
Paperback •
ISBN  978-193611309-5

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  •     Description    
  •     Contents    
  •     Reviews    


In the 19th century, the medicinal applications of leeches prompted basic research into their neurobiology, reproduction, development, and anatomy; subsequently, leeches became an important model for understanding the nervous system. In this monograph, each chapter provides a narrative account of experimental work on a particular area of leech neurobiology, and explains its significance for the broader field of neuroscience. The appendices describe methods for maintaining and manipulating leeches in the laboratory and include an atlas of neurons in the leech Hirudo medicinalis. Extensively illustrated, this book is a classic in the field and is considered a “must read” for neuroscientists and those interested in leech biology. It has been out of print for many years; however, some recent inquiries have prompted us to reprint it and make it available at an affordable price.


1. Introduction
Kenneth J. Muller, John G. Nicholls, and Gunther S. Stent
2. Leech Biology and Behavior
Roy T. Sawyer
3. History of Medicinal Leeching and Early Medical References
Brian Payton
4. Structure of the Leech Nervous System
Brian Payton
5. Sensory Cells and Motor Neurons
Susanna E. Blackshaw
6. Synapses and Synaptic Transmission
Kenneth J. Muller
7. Neural Circuits Generating Rhythmic Movements
Gunther S. Stent and William B. Kristan, Jr.
8. Neurotransmitter Chemistry
Bruce G. Wallace
9. Development of the Nervous System
David A. Weisblat
10. Regeneration and Plasticity
Kenneth J. Muller and John G. Nicholls
A. Killing Single Cells
Itzchak Parnas
B. Immunological Identification of Specific Neurons
Birgit Zipser, Susan Hockfield, and Ronald McKay
C. The Nervous System of the Leech: A Laboratory Manual
D. An Atlas of Neurons in the Leech, Hirudo medicinalis
Name Index
Subject Index


review:  “In their Introduction, the editors state the book evolved from a course for advanced students studying the nervous system of the leech. The book is designed to facilitate this study. Thus it is a compendium of chapters and appendices dealing with the various neurobiological topics for which the leech nervous system has been useful.

The writing is nonpretentious and very clear. Although the chapters are by different authors, and their styles are different, this does not cause any difficulty in reading...[T]he writing is clear enough and the bibliography complete enough that a student interested in any particular facet of these discussions can proceed rapidly and smoothly into further reading, which surely is one of the greatest values of this book.

The book will have two major uses. First, it is an excellent handbook for those students who are studying this animal in a course such as the one at Cold Spring Harbor. Secondly, and in my opinion more importantly, it provides a clear overview of what is known about this important neurobiological preparation and thus allows an investigator to decide whether this animal would be likely to be useful in studying any particular problem that is of current interest.”
      —Journal of Neurobiology

review:  “Neuroscientists tend to see life in terms of cellular activity. Their outlook is well illustrated by this Cold Spring Harbor publication which provides a multiauthored account of the nervous system of the leech from the standpoints of structure, development, chemistry and physiology.”
      —Psychological Medicine