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Annu Rev Neurosci. 2005;28:451-501.

Neuronal substrates of complex behaviors in C. elegans.

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MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QH, United Kingdom.


A current challenge in neuroscience is to bridge the gaps between genes, proteins, neurons, neural circuits, and behavior in a single animal model. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has unique features that facilitate this synthesis. Its nervous system includes exactly 302 neurons, and their pattern of synaptic connectivity is known. With only five olfactory neurons, C. elegans can dynamically respond to dozens of attractive and repellent odors. Thermosensory neurons enable the nematode to remember its cultivation temperature and to track narrow isotherms. Polymodal sensory neurons detect a wide range of nociceptive cues and signal robust escape responses. Pairing of sensory stimuli leads to long-lived changes in behavior consistent with associative learning. Worms exhibit social behaviors and complex ultradian rhythms driven by Ca(2+) oscillators with clock-like properties. Genetic analysis has identified gene products required for nervous system function and elucidated the molecular and neural bases of behaviors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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