The Mood of a Worm

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Science  26 Oct 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6106, pp. 475-476
DOI: 10.1126/science.1230251

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The human nervous system is a vastly complex network of functionally interconnected cells whose detailed structure is at present beyond reach. All our actions, calculations, feelings, memories, dreams—consciousness itself—emerge from its workings. To understand this colossal, enigmatic structure, experimentally amenable model animals with tractable nervous systems many orders of magnitude smaller are studied. A popular choice has been the worm Caenorhabditis elegans, a nematode 1 mm long with a nervous system containing fewer than 400 neurons. On pages 540 and 543 in this issue, Garrison et al. (1) and Beets et al. (2), respectively, add to a growing body of evidence that even at the highest levels of coordinating fundamental and complex behaviors, the same neural mechanisms are at work in worms and humans.