Although annelids such as Nereididae show quite complex brain structures, very few functional studies of their nervous system have been conducted so far, and little is known about their behavior. Associative learning, a very basic cognitive ability which implies to make links between two stimuli, is known to exist in many species, including small animals like C. elegans.
My aim is to demonstrate the existence of associative learning in Platynereis dumerilii larvae, using a microfluifics-based behavioural assay to precisely control the stimuli and environmental conditions. Depending on the results, different sensorial modalities such as chemical, visual, electrical or mechanical stimuli will be explored. This assay could then be used to quantitatively determine the sensitivity of larvae to the stimuli.
In conjunction with this, I will investigate the brain structures possibly involved in learning, notably the Mushroom Bodies, whose homologous in insects have been shown to be involved in associative learning and memory. Laser ablations, in vivo calcium imaging and construction of mutant lines will allow to test the functional role of Mushroom Bodies or their substructures.