The gill and siphon withdrawal (GSW) reflex of Aplysia is centrally mediated by a monosynaptic and a polysynaptic pathway between sensory and motor neurons. The first objective of this article was to evaluate quantitatively the relative importance of these two components in the mediation of the GSW reflex. We have used an artificial sea water (ASW) solution containing a high concentration of divalent cations to raise the action potential threshold of the interneurons without affecting the monosynaptic component of the reflex (2:1 ASW). Compound EPSPs induced in gill or siphon motor neurons by direct stimulation of the siphon nerve or by tactile stimulation of the siphon skin were reduced by more than 75% in 2:1 ASW. These results indicate that interneurons intercalated between sensory and motor neurons are responsible for a considerable proportion of the afferent input to the motor neurons of the reflex. The second objective of this article was to compare the modulation of the monosynaptic and polysynaptic pathways. We have evaluated their respective contribution in sensitization of the GSW reflex by testing the effects of two neuromodulators of the reflex, 5- HT and small cardioactive peptide B (SCPB). We found that these two neuromodulators have a differential action on the two components of the GSW neuronal network. The polysynaptic pathway was more facilitated than the monosynaptic pathway by the neuropeptide SCPB. By contrast, 5- HT displayed an opposite selectivity. These results suggest that the polysynaptic component of the neuronal network underlying the GSW reflex is very important for its mediation. The data also indicate that the monosynaptic and polysynaptic components of the reflex can be differentially modulated. The diversity of modulatory actions at various sites of the GSW network should be relevant for learning- associated modifications in the intact animal.