Tag Archives | worms

Scientists Have Put a Worm’s Mind in a Lego Robot’s Body


via IFL Science:

Beneath the skin of a simple worm with transparent skin, there are 302 neurons that have been mapped meticulously by researchers in what is known as a connectome. This tiny, one millimeter-long worm has been studied in laboratories around the world, and now it’s nervous system has been transplanted into the body of a Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot. The worm they used is Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans).

Why? According to OpenWorm—an organization dedicated to creating the world’s first virtual organism in a computer—to understand the human brain, we must first be able to comprehend a simple worm. To do so, their scientists essentially reverse-engineered the worm’s neural networks using sensors and software. The model makes use of UDP packets to fire neurons. For example, the sonar sensor on the robot is wired to be like the worm’s nose, which means if the robot comes within 20 centimeters of an object, sensory neurons are activated with UDP packets.

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Decapitated Worms Able To Regrow Their Heads, And Their Previous Memories

flatwormsMemories may be encoded in their DNA or stored outside of their brain, Smithsonian Magazine writes:

The researchers trained flatworms to travel across a rough surface to access food, then removed their heads. Two weeks later, after the heads grew back, the worms somehow regained their tendency to navigate across the terrain, as recently documented in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Interest in flatworm memories dates to the 1950s, when a series of strange experiments by Michigan biologist James McConnell indicated that worms could gain the ability to navigate a maze by being fed the ground-up remains of other flatworms that had been trained to run through the same maze. McConnell speculated that a type of genetic material called “memory RNA” was responsible for this phenomenon, and could be transferred between the organisms.

Subsequent research into flatworm memory RNA exploited the fact that the worms could easily regenerate heads after decapitation.

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Flatworms Could Hold Key To Immortality

flat-worm_2152792bIs this the most advanced creature on Earth? Via the Telegraph:

British researchers believe that the worms, which live in ponds and lakes, could live forever after examining their ability to repeatedly regenerate.

“Our data satisfy one of the predictions about what it would take for an animal to be potentially immortal,” Aziz Aboobaker, who led the research. “The next goals for us are to understand the mechanisms in more detail and to understand more about how you evolve an immortal animal.”

Flatworms, known as planarian worms, have long fascinated scientists because they have an extraordinary ability to regenerate. A planarian worm split lengthways or crossways will regenerate into two separate living worms. The researchers found that flatworms can continuously maintain the length of a crucial part of their DNA, known as telomeres, during regeneration.

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Scottish Schoolchildren Hit By Rain Of Worms

earth-wormsA bizarre incident in Scotland as a school briefly was trapped beneath deluge of worms falling from the sky. The Scotsman reports:

A PE class had to run for cover as it started raining worms.
Teacher David Crichton was leading a group of pupils playing football at Galashiels Academy when dozens of the invertebrates began plummeting from the sky. The 22 second-year boys had to abandon their lesson.

Mr. Crichton said the children had just completed their warm-up when they began to hear “soft thudding” on the ground. The class then looked to the cloudless sky – and saw worms falling on to them.

The teacher scooped up handfuls of the worms that had fallen from the sky as proof they had landed on his class. Mr. Crichton said he and his colleagues eventually found about 120 worms after checking the artificial football pitch and tennis courts.

Showers of worms falling from the heavens have been reported in the past.

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