Caenorhabditis elegans learning in a structured maze is a multisensory behavior

Eleni Gourgou*, Kavya Adiga, Anne Goettemoeller, Chieh Chen, Ao-Lin Hsu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


We show that C. elegans nematodes learn to associate food with a combination of proprioceptive cues and information on the structure of their surroundings (maze), perceived through mechanosensation. By using the custom-made Worm-Maze platform, we demonstrate that C. elegans young adults can locate food in T-shaped mazes and, following that experience, learn to reach a specific maze arm. C. elegans learning inside the maze is possible after a single training session, it resembles working memory, and it prevails over conflicting environmental cues. We provide evidence that the observed learning is a food-triggered multisensory behavior, which requires mechanosensory and proprioceptive input, and utilizes cues about the structural features of nematodes' environment and their body actions. The CREB-like transcription factor and dopamine signaling are also involved in maze performance. Lastly, we show that the observed aging-driven decline of C. elegans learning ability in the maze can be reversed by starvation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102284
Issue number4
StatePublished - 23 Apr 2021


  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Biological Sciences
  • Neuroscience


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