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date: 18 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The soil-dwelling nematode,  Caenorhabditis elegans , is an ideal system to study developmental plasticity. Researchers are aided by a mapped and sequenced genome, a complete cell lineage, and a neural wiring diagram. The predictability with which these worms develop makes it possible to examine subtle alterations that occur as a result of early experience. Experiments show effects of early deprivation/enrichment on behavior, growth, and neural structure. Studies using genetic mutants have revealed activity-dependent structural plasticity in specific neurons and long-lasting impacts of early sensory input have been demonstrated using mechanical and olfactory stimuli. Such a thorough investigation of the complex interaction between the environment and the genome has not been possible in any other organism studied to date.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans, developmental plasticity, neural structure, genetic mutants, activity-dependent structural plasticity

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