The beginning of connectomics: a commentary on White et al. (1986) 'The structure of the nervous system of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans'

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2015 Apr 19;370(1666):20140309. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0309.


The article 'Structure of the nervous system of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans' (aka 'The mind of a worm') by White et al., published for the first time the complete set of synaptic connections in the nervous system of an animal. The work was carried out as part of a programme to begin to understand how genes determine the structure of a nervous system and how a nervous system creates behaviour. It became a major stimulus to the field of C. elegans research, which has since contributed insights into all areas of biology. Twenty-six years elapsed before developments, notably more powerful computers, made new studies of this kind possible. It is hoped that one day knowledge of synaptic structure, the connectome, together with results of many other investigations, will lead to an understanding of the human brain. This commentary was written to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; connectomics; nervous system.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / anatomy & histology*
  • Connectome / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Nervous System / anatomy & histology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*