CTN Seminar: Eduardo Izquierdo: The Whole Worm: Brain-Body-Environment Models of C. elegans
One of the grand scientific challenges of this century is to understand how the brain works. With the growing recognition of the central roles that embodiment and situatedness play, the true challenge is even more difficult: to understand how behavior is grounded in the dynamics of an entire brain-body-environment system. Addressing this challenge requires that we bridge the gap between connectome, neural activity, and behavior. In addition to experimental tools to map connectivity and to image and manipulate neural activity, such a challenge demands the development of computational models of the behaving organisms and tools of analysis to understand them. Caenorhabditis elegans is a uniquely qualified target for such an integrated modeling of a complete animal. In this talk, I discuss our computational neuroethology framework. We integrate a neuromuscular model with a biomechanical model of the worm's body and we use an evolutionary algorithm to determine unknown physiological parameters so that the complete system reproduce a behavior of interest. We then analyze representative solutions in detail to reveal principles and generate hypotheses. For this talk, I will focus on C. elegans locomotion. As in other organisms, there are internal and external mechanisms that contribute to the generation, propagation, and coordination of the rhythmic patterns responsible for locomotion. We examine the space of possibilities for how these can be combined to produce locomotory behavior in the worm.