An elegant mind: learning and memory in Caenorhabditis elegans

Learn Mem. 2010 Mar 24;17(4):191-201. doi: 10.1101/lm.960510. Print 2010 Apr.


This article reviews the literature on learning and memory in the soil-dwelling nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Paradigms include nonassociative learning, associative learning, and imprinting, as worms have been shown to habituate to mechanical and chemical stimuli, as well as learn the smells, tastes, temperatures, and oxygen levels that predict aversive chemicals or the presence or absence of food. In each case, the neural circuit underlying the behavior has been at least partially described, and forward and reverse genetics are being used to elucidate the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms. Several genes have been identified with no known role other than mediating behavior plasticity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Oxygen / pharmacology
  • Physical Stimulation / methods
  • Taste / physiology
  • Temperature


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Oxygen