The complexity of vertebrate immune and nervous systems makes detailed cellular analysis of neuroimmune interactions a challenging prospect. The immune systems of invertebrates, although much less complex than their vertebrate counterparts, share basic cellular defense responses to wounded self or nonself. We have developed a simple model system to study neuroimmune interactions using an invertebrate preparation well suited to detailed cellular analysis. Loose ligation of peripheral nerves in Aplysia induced a cellular defense reaction evidenced by the accumulation of large numbers of amebocytes at the ligation site. From 5 to 30 d after ligation, the excitability of the soma of sensory neurons having axons in ligated nerves was increased compared to contralateral sensory neurons with axons in nonligated nerves. Spike threshold and afterhyperpolarization were reduced, and spike amplitude and duration were increased. Spike accommodation was also decreased such that sensory neurons on the ligated side fired more spikes to a 1 sec intracellular depolarizing pulse than control sensory neurons. These effects are unlikely to be accounted for by ligation-induced injury of sensory axons since both morphological and electrophysiological evidence indicated that the axons in ligated nerves were healthy and able to conduct action potentials. Amebocytes activated by the presence of nonself may release factors that lead to a central sensitization of sensory neurons with axons in close proximity to the amebocytes.