In this Commentary, we shed light on the use of invertebrates as model organisms for understanding the causal and conserved mechanisms of learning and memory. We provide a condensed chronicle of the contribution offered by mollusks to the studies on how and where the nervous system encodes and stores memory and describe the rich cognitive capabilities of some insect species, including attention and concept learning. We also discuss the use of planarians for investigating the dynamics of memory during brain regeneration and highlight the role of stressful stimuli in forming memories. Furthermore, we focus on the increasing evidence that invertebrates display some forms of emotions, which provides new opportunities for unveiling the neural and molecular mechanisms underlying the complex interaction between stress, emotions and cognition. In doing so, we highlight experimental challenges and suggest future directions that we expect the field to take in the coming years, particularly regarding what we, as humans, need to know for preventing and/or delaying memory loss.

This article has an associated ECR Spotlight interview with Veronica Rivi.

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