Neural Circuits Mediate Electrosensory Behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans

Christopher V. Gabel, Harrison Gabel, Dmitri Pavlichin, Albert Kao, Damon A. Clark, Aravinthan D.T. Samuel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans deliberately crawls toward the negative pole in an electric field. By quantifying the movements of individual worms navigating electric fields, we show that C. elegans prefers to crawl at specific angles to the direction of the electric field in persistent periods of forward movement and that the preferred angle is proportional to field strength. C. elegans reorients itself in response to time-varying electric fields by using sudden turns and reversals, standard reorientation maneuvers that C. elegans uses during other modes of motile behavior. Mutation or laser ablation that disrupts the structure and function of amphid sensory neurons also disrupts electrosensory behavior. By imaging intracellular calcium dynamics among the amphid sensory neurons of immobilized worms, we show that specific amphid sensory neurons are sensitive to the direction and strength of electric fields. We extend our analysis to the motor level by showing that specific interneurons affect the utilization of sudden turns and reversals during electrosensory steering. Thus, electrosensory behaviormaybe used as a model system for understandinghowsensory inputs are transformed into motor outputs by the C. elegans nervous system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7586-7596
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number28
StatePublished - Jul 11 2007


  • C. elegans
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Motor control
  • Movement (motion; motor activity)
  • Navigation
  • Sensorimotor


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