Neurobiol Learn Mem 2009 Sep 26;92(2):139-46. Epub 2008 Sep 26.
Graduate Program in Neuroscience, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
This review surveys the literature that investigates the behavioral characterization and cellular and molecular mechanisms of habituation using the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. In 1990, C. elegans was first observed to show habituation to a non-localized mechanical tap. The parameters that govern this behavioral plasticity in C. elegans were subsequently characterized, which lead to the important hypothesis that habituation is mediated by multiple mechanisms. Many tools are available to C. elegans researchers that allow for relatively easy genetic manipulation. This has lead to a number of recent genetic studies that have begun to identify key genes and molecules that play a role in the mechanisms of habituation. Some of these genes include a vesicular glutamate transporter, a glutamate receptor subunit, a dopamine receptor and downstream intracellular signaling molecules, such as G proteins and kinases. Some of these genes only affect certain parameters of habituation, but not others supporting the hypothesis that multiple mechanisms mediate habituation. The field of research has also led to the dissection of different phases of memory (short-term vs. long-term memory for habituation), which are triggered by different training paradigms. The differences in mechanism between these various forms of memory are also beginning to be revealed.
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