Background: The freshwater snail Lymnaea stagnalis (L. stagnalis) has served as a successful model for studies in the field of Neuroscience. However, a serious drawback in the molecular analysis of the nervous system of L. stagnalis has been the lack of large-scale genomic or neuronal transcriptome information, thereby limiting the use of this unique model. Results: In this study, we report 7,712 distinct EST sequences (median length: 847 nucleotides) of a normalized L. stagnalis central nervous system (CNS) cDNA library, resulting in the largest collection of L. stagnalis neuronal transcriptome data currently available. Approximately 42% of the cDNAs can be translated into more than 100 consecutive amino acids, indicating the high quality of the library. The annotated sequences contribute 12% of the predicted transcriptome size of 20,000. Surprisingly, approximately 37% of the L. stagnalis sequences only have a tBLASTx hit in the EST library of another snail species Aplysia californica (A. californica) even using a low stringency e-value cutoff at 0.01. Using the same cutoff, approximately 67% of the cDNAs have a BLAST hit in the NCBI non-redundant protein and nucleotide sequence databases (nr and nt), suggesting that one third of the sequences may be unique to L. stagnalis. Finally, using the same cutoff (0.01), more than half of the cDNA sequences (54%) do not have a hit in nematode, fruitfly or human genome data, suggesting that the L. stagnalis transcriptome is significantly different from these species as well. The cDNA sequences are enriched in the following gene ontology functional categories: protein binding, hydrolase, transferase, and catalytic enzymes. Conclusion: This study provides novel molecular insights into the transcriptome of an important molluscan model organism. Our findings will contribute to functional analyses in neurobiology, and comparative evolutionary biology. The L. stagnalis CNS EST database is available at http://www.Lymnaea.org/. © 2009 Feng et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.