Neuroscientists at Princeton University have captured the neural activity in the entire brains of freely moving nematode worms for the first time using an imaging technique. The study explains how the nervous system controls animal behavior.

Using an image recognition system and a new instrument capable of  recording intracellular calcium transients from every neuron, the researchers were able to track the movement of an unrestrained worm in real-time; and by using calcium fluorescent imaging technique, they were able to photograph the neural activity in a thin slice of the nematode’s brain.

The team built a three-dimensional picture of the entire brain activity and by photographing other brain slices at 200 frames per second, they could capture five brain volumes per second as the worm moves.

The nematode worm comprises 302 neurons, the pattern of which has been comprehensively mapped, this made it an ideal subject for this kind of study. Calcium transients from 78 individual neurons were observed showing significant correlations to movements such as forward, backward and turning locomotion. [Technology Review]

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4 thoughts on “Neural Activity In The Brains Of Unrestrained Nematode Worms Captured For The First Time

  1. I think this article really is phenomenal, from a biologist’s POV. This means that if 1/3 of their neurons are devoted to movement, then their neural organization is way higher than we previously rated them. (as compared to other invertebrates)

    The calcium link (instead of electrical) is also cool. To me, that means that their digging and tunneling isn’t solely for homebuilding or instinctive-it means they’re refueling and ensuring Ca is always present in their bodies.

    Nice. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I wonder what purpose this type of study is intended to serve. It is phenomenal that technology has advanced so far, yet I am curious to see if there is a possibility of doing this with a more complex life form–like a human being.

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