Caenorhabditis elegans As a Model System to Study Aging of Learning and Memory

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The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is an excellent model organism to study biological processes relevant to a wide variety of human and rodent disease systems. Previous studies have suggested that mutants of the insulin/insulin-like growth factor-1 pathway show life extension and increased stress resistance in various species, including C. elegans, the fruit fly, and the mouse. It has recently been shown that the life-extending mutants, including the age-1 phosphatidylinositol-3 OH kinase mutants and the daf-2 insulin-like receptor mutants, display improvement in a type of associative learning behavior called thermotaxis learning behavior. The age-1 mutant shows a dramatic threefold extension of the health-span that ensures thermotaxis learning behavior, suggesting strong neuroprotective actions during aging. The age-1 and daf-2 mutants show resistance to multiple forms of stress and upregulates the genes involved in reactive oxygen species scavenging, heat shock, and P450 drug-detoxification. The life-extending mutants may confer resistance to various stress and diseases in neurons. Therefore, C. elegans provides an emerging system for the prevention of age-related deficits in the nervous system and in learning behaviors. This article discusses the aging of learning and memory and the neuroprotection effects of life-extending mutants on learning behaviors.

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