Worms are weird, primitive creatures that seem to just squirm around senselessly. However, this simplistic behavior is exactly what we are looking for in our endeavours to digitize a living brain.
Researchers recently managed to put a copy of the brain of a Caenorhabditis elegans, or C. elegans into a robot. It is the digital brain of a worm on a computer chip in a lego robot. The little guy is a simulated brain navigating on its own. Well, navigating the best way a wormbot can.
The scientists put sensors on their robots “noses” and “tails”so if they meet a wall, they know to turn around, just like the C.elegans. However, as simple as this robot seems to be, getting to this point was no easy feat. Researchers spent decades looking at each and every cell in the C. elegans, and at how each cell works with the cells around it.
Then other researchers built a program that could mimic that interaction. They could do this, because scientists have a complete map of every single cell in the C. elegans and their functions. It’s the worm’s “connectome”, and it holds around 1000 cells and all 302 neurons of this little worm. Once you’ve digitized how every cell and neuron interact, you have the digital version of the C. elegans brain!