The Kemenes Lab
Despite the long evolutionary distance and obvious differences in body design and behaviour, there are remarkable similarities between the molecular mechanisms underlying associative learning in vertebrate and invertebrate animals. Prime examples of such evolutionarily conserved mechanisms are the learning-induced activation of the same types of transcription factors and kinase enzymes in both the invertebrate and the vertebrate (including human) brain; or how some molecules wreck havoc on learning in both vertebrates and invertebrates, while others improve it. My lab has been exploring the fundamental molecular mechanisms of memory function and dysfunction that are shared between snails and humans. Snail are excellent model organisms for studying the molecular mechanisms of learning and memory because they show relatively complex forms of learning (e.g., classical conditioning) while having much simpler brains than vertebrate animals.
The significance of the molecular level findings in the humble snail is that they can be highly instructive for learning and memory research in mammals. The knowledge obtained from research in my lab and other laboratories using invertebrate models will help us to understand how we learn and remember, and ultimately prevent and treat memory disorders or even enhance normal memory in humans.