Investigating the molecular mechanisms of learning and memory using Caenorhabditis elegans

Aelon Rahmani, Yee Lian Chew

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Learning is an essential biological process for survival since it facilitates behavioural plasticity in response to environmental changes. This process is mediated by a wide variety of genes, mostly expressed in the nervous system. Many studies have extensively explored the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying learning and memory. This review will focus on the advances gained through the study of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. C. elegans provides an excellent system to study learning because of its genetic tractability, in addition to its invariant, compact nervous system (~300 neurons) that is well-characterised at the structural level. Importantly, despite its compact nature, the nematode nervous system possesses a high level of conservation with mammalian systems. These features allow the study of genes within specific sensory-, inter- and motor neurons, facilitating the interrogation of signalling pathways that mediate learning via defined neural circuits. This review will detail how learning and memory can be studied in C. elegans through behavioural paradigms that target distinct sensory modalities. We will also summarise recent studies describing mechanisms through which key molecular and cellular pathways are proposed to affect associative and non-associative forms of learning. (Figure presented.).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-451
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Volume159
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Keywords

  • associative learning
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • learning
  • memory
  • neurons
  • non-associative learning

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