As the Worm Turns: Learning and Memory in the Roundworm C. elegans
One of the most important behaviors with integrated neurological circuits is learning, which is based on the development of memory. True learning and memory are found only in multicellular animals. But it is amazing how few cells can regulate highly complex behavioral activity. The roundworm C. elegans has only 302 nerve cells, but this handful of cells carry out the main neurological functions found in humans: afferent detection of environmental signals, selection of an efferent motor response, and integration of these two pathways. Moreover, these worms use neurotransmitters functionally similar to those in humans, and can be shown to have true memory. The small size of C. elegans, and its limited number of genes (c.13,000), has made possible the dissection of the cellular and molecular basis underlying learning and memory in these organisms. This in turn has provided valuable direction to similar studies in higher animals.
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