Maze exploration and learning in C. elegans

Lab Chip. 2007 Feb;7(2):186-92. doi: 10.1039/b613414a. Epub 2006 Dec 1.


The soil dwelling nematode, Caenorhabditis (C.) elegans, is a popular model system for studying behavioral plasticity. Noticeably absent from the C. elegans literature, however, are studies evaluating worm behavior in mazes. Here, we report the use of microfluidic mazes to investigate exploration and learning behaviors in wild-type C. elegans, as well as in the dopamine-poor mutant, cat-2. The key research findings include: (1)C. elegans worms are motivated to explore complex spatial environments with or without the presence of food/reward, (2) wild-type worms exhibit a greater tendency to explore relative to mutant worms, (3) both wild-type and mutant worms can learn to make unconditioned responses to food/reward, and (4) wild-type worms are significantly more likely to learn to make conditioned responses linking reward to location than mutant worms. These results introduce microfluidic mazes as a valuable new tool for biological behavioral analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Genotype
  • Maze Learning*
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques / methods*
  • Models, Biological
  • Motor Activity
  • Movement
  • Mutation
  • Time Factors