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Extending lifespan has mixed effects on learning and memory
Date:5/19/2010

t worms with long lifespans in the same way or on the same time scale.

In seeking to explore these questions, the researchers found themselves facing a challenge: How do you assess learning and memory in worms?

Taking a hint from Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov, famous for his early 20th-century experiments that taught dogs to associate food with the ringing of a bell, Princeton graduate student Amanda Kauffman trained worms to associate food -- in the case of C. elegans, bacteria are food -- with a chemical called butanone. The worms are not normally attracted to butanone, which smells something like a cloying combination of butterscotch and acetone, but they learned to move toward the chemical after training sessions in which they were fed in the presence of butanone.

After training, the researchers assessed learning and memory by re-exposing the worms to butanone and observing the degree to which the animals moved toward the chemical to which they normally would be averse. The biologists trained and tested worms of a variety of ages to assess the cognitive abilities of young, middle-aged and old worms.

The number and duration of the training sessions had a marked effect on how long the worms were observed to remember the food-butanone association. The researchers found that, after a single 30-minute training session, young worms moved toward butanone when tested immediately, but they retained this short-term memory less than two hours. Following a series of seven training sessions, young worms were found to form long-term memories that lasted at least 16 hours -- a large chunk of time in the lifespan of a worm that lives only about two and a half weeks. In the average person, this would equate to remembering something for around three to six years. Further tests indicated that about half of this long-term memory faded within 24 hours, and the food-butanone association was entirely forgotten 40 hours after training. Fo
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Contact: Kitta MacPherson
kittamac@princeton.edu
609-258-5729
Princeton University
Source:Eurekalert  

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