Animals, including humans, cope with environmental change for survival and reproduction. The brain processes environmental stimuli to modify behavior. However, this ability declines along with aging. Therefore, our research is to first understand the mechanism of how a neural circuit loses its function from memory and learning to behavior during aging. Secondly, we are focusing on collective behavior. We are fascinated with the emergence of intelligent behaviors when living things such as honeybees and ants collectively self-organize at the population level. We are studying the mechanism underlying collective pattern formation.
To understand the mechanism underlying collective behavior and neural circuit aging, we have used the nematode C. elegans as a model animal. C. elegans are comprised of only 959 somatic cells, including 302 neurons. The life cycle of C. elegans is quite short, 3.5 days at 20 degrees. This is an advantage for aging research since we can better observe aging. Furthermore, the body of C. elegans is quite small, only 1 millimeter, and transparent. Owing to this feature, we can simultaneously observe molecules, cells, and behaviors, non-invasively. Therefore, C. elegans is one of the most suitable model animals for behavior and aging research.