September 2, 2015 9:00 — 0 Comments

Studying Worm Movements May Offer Clues to the Human Brain

In a study recently published in the journal in the journal PLOS Biology, researchers from MRC’s Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College London developed a pioneering tool to analyze a worm’s posture is it wriggles and are investigating how exactly the worm’s brain controls its movements. Researchers created a library of shapes that each depict a key posture adopted by small worms. This nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, is a mainstay of scientific research. It’s the only animal for which scientists have established how all of its neurons are connected. It is also a good model for the human brain because some of the genes that encode its neurons can be found in people, and many of the molecules that its neurons use to communicate with each other, such as dopamine and serotonin, are thought to play similar roles in the human brain. During the study, a computer assigned the worm’s posture to a numerical value between 1 and 90, each of which denotes a benchmark posture. The sequence of postures that a worm adopts over time is then represented by a string of numbers. This numerical data can then be linked to information from separate studies on the worms’ genes and neuronal activity, to try to spot any associations between posture, neuronal activity and genes. “We still don’t know the best ways to measure behavior,” said the study’s lead research. “We think that what we learn from studying worms will also help with more complex organisms, and ultimately influence how we measure human behaviors.” To read more about this study, click here.

Comments are closed.