Reading the mind of a worm

LA JOLLA—It sounds like a party trick: scientists can now look at the brain activity of a tiny worm and tell you which chemical the animal smelled a few seconds before. But the findings of a new study, led by Salk Associate Professor Sreekanth Chalasani, are more than just a novelty; they help the scientists better understand how the brain functions and integrates information.

“We found some unexpected things when we started looking at the effect of these sensory stimuli on individual cells and connections within the worms’ brains,” says Chalasani, member of the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory and senior author of the new work, published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology on November 9, 2021.

Chalasani is interested in how, at a cellular level, the brain processes information from the outside world. Researchers can’t simultaneously track the activity of each of the 86 billion brain cells…
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