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We are based at the Zoology Department, University of Cambridge

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Our Research

The human brain consists of over 3 billion neurons which connect with each other to send signals via neurotransmitters that either turn on or off their partner neurons. To store memories and alter behaviours these networks change their balance of ‘on’ and ‘off’ signals. Studying this in large brains is challenging, instead we turn to the nematode worm, C. elegans. Despite having only 302 neurons, worms learn new behaviours and navigate mazes. The small size of their brain means that we have the physical map of the connections between all neurons. However, in some ways their brains appear more complicated, as each of their neurotransmitters encode both on and off signals, and they have many more receptors for these signals. As such neuroscientists, who are studying learning and other behaviours using C. elegans, cannot easily predict how information passes through the worm brain.


Our work aims to characterise the complexity of the worm brain by studying neurotransmitter receptors, to do this we will determine their neurotransmitters and whether they send on or off signals as well as their distribution across the brain and roles in generating behaviour and learning. This will lead to a deeper understanding of the worm brain, allowing other neuroscientists to interpret their findings as well as have the potential to discover new receptors that have never been studied. Understanding these fundamental processes of neuron communication and learning in worms is a critical step towards truly understanding the complexity of larger brains, including our own.


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