Brain + Lego = worm?

OpenWorm is an open source project dedicated to creating the first virtual organism in a computer.
Image credit:  OpenWorm

Uploading a brain – or at least, recreating the connections in a brain and then uploading it – into a machine may sound like science fiction. However, scientists have already achieved this feat, at least on a very small (and simplified) scale.

A few years ago, an international team of researchers and scientists put a worm’s brain into a Lego robot’s body, giving the wheeled robot the neuron connections in a Caenorhabditis elegans roundworm. C. elegans was chosen because of its simplicity: it has only 302 neurons, and its entire body has only 1 000 cells in total. It is also extremely well studied.

Behind this achievement is OpenWorm, an open source project dedicated to creating the first virtual organism in a computer. Why? Well, according to the OpenWorm project website, ‘Because modeling a simple nervous system is a first step toward fully understanding complex systems like the human brain.’

By extending the connectome [all the connections in the brain] of C. elegans to a Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot, researchers could observe behaviours that can be observed in the living organism, and study the connectome from sensory input to motor output in real world environments.

Scientists Upload Worm's Mind Into a Lego Robot

Scientists have created a robot that ‘thinks’ and acts like a worm after inserting software modelled on the neural connections in a worm's brain inside a Lego robot.
Video credit: Wall Street Journal

11 Jan 2018


By Robyn Grimsley
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