As a demonstration of femtosecond laser ablation in C. elegans, we severed individual dendrites of a thermosensory neuron in the worm without damaging nearby neurons. Quantification of the resulting behavioral deficits identifies the contribution of the dissected structures to normal thermotaxis. A similar dissection of osmosensory dendrites showed a lack of regeneration after surgery, in constrast to a previous report of post-surgery motor axon repair.
Improvements to the technique are aimed at increasing the speed of surgery. The subsequent increase in the number of processed worms or samples will permit the study of subtle behaviors and effects, making the technique useful to an even wider range of researchers.