Methods for analyzing neuronal structure and activity in Caenorhabditis elegans

Scott W. Emmons, Eviatar Yemini, Manuel Zimmer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The model research animal Caenorhabditis elegans has unique properties making it particularly advantageous for studies of the nervous system. The nervous system is composed of a stereotyped complement of neurons connected in a consistent manner. Here, we describe methods for studying nervous system structure and function. The transparency of the animal makes it possible to visualize and identify neurons in living animals with fluorescent probes. These methods have been recently enhanced for the efficient use of neuron-specific reporter genes. Because of its simple structure, for a number of years, C. elegans has been at the forefront of connectomic studies defining synaptic connectivity by electron microscopy. This field is burgeoning with new, more powerful techniques, and recommended up-to-date methods are here described that encourage the possibility of new work in C. elegans. Fluorescent probes for single synapses and synaptic connections have allowed verification of the EM reconstructions and for experimental approaches to synapse formation. Advances in microscopy and in fluorescent reporters sensitive to Ca levels have opened the way to observing activity within single neurons across the entire nervous system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberiyab072
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Ca-imaging
  • WormBook
  • connectome
  • fluorescent reporter gene
  • graph theory
  • nematode
  • nervous system
  • synapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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