Meet the small yellow worm that can REGROW its own head – and its old memories

Read Time:3 Minute, 35 Second

  • If the planarian  worm’s head is cut off it can regenerate a new one
  • Scientists  have found this new head contains memories from  the old one
  • This  suggests memories are stored in another part of the  body

By  Victoria Woollaston

PUBLISHED: 09:19 EST, 11  July 2013 |  UPDATED: 11:26 EST, 11 July 2013

Scientists have discovered that not only can  the planarian worm regrow its head if its cut off, the regenerated brain  contains the same memories that were stored in the decapitated one.

Researchers from Tufts University in Boston  tested the memory of the planarian worms by measuring how long it took them to  reach food in a lab environment.

The small yellow worms had been trained to  ignore the bright lights in the lab so they could find their meals without being  distracted and the scientists found that even after decapitation worms  remembered this training.

Researchers at Tufts University have discovered that not only can the planarian worm, pictured, regrow its own head if its decapitated, the new head contains old memories.  

Researchers at Tufts University have found that not only  can the planarian worm, pictured, regrow its own head, but the new head contains  old memories. The worms were trained to find food in a petri dish before being  decapitated. When their new head had regrown, the worms were able to remember  these skills

WHAT IS THE PLANARIAN  WORM?

Planarian worms live all over the world in fresh and saltwater ponds 

Small, yellowish planarian worms are found in  many parts of the world.

They live in both saltwater and freshwater  ponds and rivers.

Some species live in soil and on plants in  humid countries.

Some planarian worms can regenerate lost body  parts.

A planarian worm that is cut in half, for  example, is capable of regrowing brains and nervous systems to create two,  separate worms.

Planaria have two eye-spots that can detect  the intensity of light.

These spots act as photoreceptors and are  used to move away from bright light sources.

For the experiment, a team of biologists from  the university trained the 1cm worms to find food hidden in the middle of a  petri dish.

The food was lit up by a bright beam of  light.

 

Planarian worms have two eye-spots that can  detect the intensity of light.

These spots act as photoreceptors and are  used to move away from bright light sources.

This means that the worms had to be trained  to get over this fear of the light to get the food.

Once they had learnt this skill, the worms  were decapitated.

Two weeks later – when most of the worm’s  heads had grown back – the team put the worms back into the petri dish.

Using video-tracking technology, the  scientists discovered that the worms which had been trained found the brightly  lit food quicker than their peers.

And, although they didn’t find the food on  the first attempt, it only took  one training session for the worms to recover  their skills and ignore  the lights.

This was faster than the decapitated worms  that hadn’t been trained before losing their heads.

However, the researchers don’t know how or  why this happens.

Planarian worms have two eye-spots, pictured, that can detect the intensity of light.  

Planarian worms have two eye-spots, pictured, that can  detect the intensity of light. These spots act as photoreceptors and are used to  move away from bright light sources. The biologists trained the worms to find  food hidden in the middle of a lit petri dish and remove their fear of light

The findings suggest that the worm’s memories  may be stored somewhere else in the body.

A second idea suggested by the researchers is  that the worms’ old brain had changed their nervous systems to adjust to the  light, and these changes to the system remained when the new brain was  grown.

Researchers said in the study that more work  needs to be done to discover exactly how the worm is able to retain old  memories, but the findings can be used as a starting point for work into how  memories in humans and other animals could be restored.

The findings appear in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2360286/Meet-small-yellow-worm-REGROW-head–old-memories.html#ixzz2YksuUY2E Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook



Categories: Counter Intuitive

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