A visual danger stimulus elicits an escape response in the crab Chasmagnathus that declines after repeated presentations. Previous results report that such waning may be retained as context-signal memory (CSM) or signal memory (SM): CSM is long lasting, associative, and produced by spaced training, while SM is an intermediate memory, nonassociative, and produced by massed training. The performances of both spaced and massed trained crabs are here examined, using video analysis to determine topographic changes in the behavioral response during and after training. During spaced training, escape vanishes and is mainly replaced by freezing, while during massed training, escape decreases over trials without being replaced by any defensive response. After 24 h, the marked proclivity to freezing persists in spaced trained crabs, while a high level of escaping is shown by massed trained crabs. The long-lasting freezing preference of spaced trained crabs proves to be context-specific and apparent from the very first presentation of the danger stimulus at testing, though freezing is not triggered by the sole exposure to the context. We conclude (a) that freezing preference is the acquired response of the CSM process; (b) that CSM can be properly categorized as an instance of contextual conditioning and SM of classical habituation; (c) that CSM and SM are not two phases of a memory processing but two distinctly types of memory; and (d) that therefore, the temporal distribution of training trials has a drastic effect on crab's memory, more dramatic than that previously described. The possibility that massed and spaced presentations of the same stimulus may represent two different stimulus types is discussed. (C) 2000 Academic Press.
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