||NIH Neuroscience Series Seminar
Dr. Chalasani uses an organism with a much simpler nervous system than humans to answer questions about neuroscience: the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. This animal has only 302 neurons and a few thousand connections between these cells. Each neuron is mapped and named, making it easier to study the effect of environment or gene changes at the resolution of individual cells. But despite its simplicity, the C. elegans nervous system has commonalities with a human brain: if you give a worm a dose of the antidepressant Prozac, for example, it becomes less fearful of predators; and if you mutate a gene linked to autism in humans, the worm shows less interest in other worms.
Among other studies, Chalasani’s lab is asking how the roundworm nervous system, one of the simplest in nature, gives rise to such behaviors as fear and aggression. He is exploring what these tiny creatures can tell us about human aggressions and fears, emotions and behaviors often necessary for our survival, but which are also sources of great suffering. The worm’s simple nervous system makes it useful for studying human diseases—and testing drugs—in a well-understood model.
For more information go to https://neuroscience.nih.gov/neuroseries