Characterizing the Role of Glutamate in Decision-Making Behavior

Gianina Pontrelli and Dr. Gareth Harris


Characterizing the role of glutamate in decision-making behavior
Gianina Pontrelli*, Trevor Wolf, Ariana Perez, Gareth Harris. California State University Channel Islands, Camarillo, Ca.

Glutamate signaling is a key neurotransmitter involved in complex behaviors across
the human brain. Glutamate signaling has been implicated in pain sensing, olfaction, learning, memory and decision-making. Despite understanding the appreciation of glutamatergic transmission in complex behavioral strategies, our understanding of the molecular mechanisms and brain circuits that are shaped by glutamate signaling is still not fully understood. Our project uses the invertebrate worm, C. elegans, to characterize how glutamate controls decision-making behaviors associated with the sensation of odors and the processing of food related cues. We used a behavioral paradigm that examines escape responses from food when paired with a repulsive volatile odorant, 2-nonanone. We found that glutamate signaling mediates, 1) food recognition, while worms reside on a food patch, and 2) the dynamics of food leaving during exposure to repellents. We have identified key roles for glutamate based on using mutant analysis, to examine worms
that lack glutamate transmission of downstream glutamate receptors in the worm’s ‘brain’. We have identified a role for glutamate signaling in spontaneous food related behavior on a food patch, and we identified a role for glutamate and multiple glutamate receptors that mediate 2-nonanone-dependent food leaving. We hope that our findings provide a platform to continue our investigation of how key human relevant neurotransmitters control complex decision-making behaviors.

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