22 December 2014

Modeling the worm!

Recent physical simulation of the c. elegans 302-neuron worm with Lego, as reported here at the I Programmer site on Nov. 16, 2014, "A Worm's Mind In A Lego Body" by Lucy Black.  This is a nice follow-up to my May 2013 post Modeling Simple Worms.  The claim here is that the computer model of these neurons is able to produce simple physical behavior that is like the worm behavior (note that the worm is very small and only capable of simple behavior).  There's a video that shows the lego model in action.
It is claimed that the robot behaved in ways that are similar to observed C. elegans. Stimulation of the nose stopped forward motion. Touching the anterior and posterior touch sensors made the robot move forward and back accordingly. Stimulating the food sensor made the robot move forward.

The key point is that there was no programming or learning involved to create the behaviors. The connectome of the worm was mapped and implemented as a software system and the behaviors emerge.

The connectome may only consist of 302 neurons but it is self-stimulating and it is difficult to understand how it works - but it does.
As for the claim about the worm's mind...  well we don't know much about a worm's mind, so how could we know if this model captures it?

The simulation project is run by Tim Busbice at The Connectome Engine.  Another story on the simulation at the New Scientist site "First digital animal will be perfect copy of real worm."

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