Towards a virtual C. elegans: a framework for simulation and visualization of the neuromuscular system in a 3D physical environment

In Silico Biol. 2011;11(3-4):137-47. doi: 10.3233/ISB-2012-0445.


The nematode C. elegans is the only animal with a known neuronal wiring diagram, or "connectome". During the last three decades, extensive studies of the C. elegans have provided wide-ranging data about it, but few systematic ways of integrating these data into a dynamic model have been put forward. Here we present a detailed demonstration of a virtual C. elegans aimed at integrating these data in the form of a 3D dynamic model operating in a simulated physical environment. Our current demonstration includes a realistic flexible worm body model, muscular system and a partially implemented ventral neural cord. Our virtual C. elegans demonstrates successful forward and backward locomotion when sending sinusoidal patterns of neuronal activity to groups of motor neurons. To account for the relatively slow propagation velocity and the attenuation of neuronal signals, we introduced "pseudo neurons" into our model to simulate simplified neuronal dynamics. The pseudo neurons also provide a good way of visualizing the nervous system's structure and activity dynamics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Connectome
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscles / physiology