The starfish Asterias rubens is an invertebrate deuterostome whose nervous system shows remarkable regenerative properties. To understand when full functionality of a damaged part of the nervous system recovers, and to follow nerve regeneration in detail, we carried out behavioural experiments with 29 starfishes that had the nerve in one of the arms sectioned in a mid-arm position. Loss and recovery of normal behaviour was followed by video analysis of animal performance in an appetitive behavioural test. When compared to 13 control (unoperated) animals, the appetitive response of freshly sectioned animals is normal initially, progressively deteriorates up to 40 days after the lesion, and then gradually improves until 60 days, when recovery is complete. This is true only when one of the leading arms in the appetitive test is a sectioned arm; turning the starfish so that both the leading arms facing the prey are unlesioned, results in normal behaviour even at 40 days after the cut. Thus, regeneration is a multi-step process whose time course coincides with anatomical regeneration. At intermediate times the animals have coordination problems in an appetitive behaviour test and these give some insights into how arms may inter-communicate to organize concerted movements. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.