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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Comput. Neurosci., 07 March 2012 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fncom.2012.00010

Gait modulation in C. elegans: an integrated neuromechanical model

  • 1 School of Computing, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  • 2 Institute of Membrane and Systems Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

Equipped with its 302-cell nervous system, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans adapts its locomotion in different environments, exhibiting so-called swimming in liquids and crawling on dense gels. Recent experiments have demonstrated that the worm displays the full range of intermediate behaviors when placed in intermediate environments. The continuous nature of this transition strongly suggests that these behaviors all stem from modulation of a single underlying mechanism. We present a model of C. elegans forward locomotion that includes a neuromuscular control system that relies on a sensory feedback mechanism to generate undulations and is integrated with a physical model of the body and environment. We find that the model reproduces the entire swim-crawl transition, as well as locomotion in complex and heterogeneous environments. This is achieved with no modulatory mechanism, except via the proprioceptive response to the physical environment. Manipulations of the model are used to dissect the proposed pattern generation mechanism and its modulation. The model suggests a possible role for GABAergic D-class neurons in forward locomotion and makes a number of experimental predictions, in particular with respect to non-linearities in the model and to symmetry breaking between the neuromuscular systems on the ventral and dorsal sides of the body.

Keywords: invertebrate, locomotion, motor control, neuromechanical model, proprioception

Citation: Boyle JH, Berri S and Cohen N (2012) Gait modulation in C. elegans: an integrated neuromechanical model. Front. Comput. Neurosci. 6:10. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2012.00010

Received: 07 October 2011; Accepted: 07 February 2012;
Published online: 07 March 2012.

Edited by:

Misha Tsodyks, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel

Reviewed by:

Misha Tsodyks, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Alexander G. Dimitrov, Washington State University Vancouver, USA

Copyright: © 2012 Boyle, Berri and Cohen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Netta Cohen, School of Computing, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK. e-mail: n.cohen@leeds.ac.uk

Present address: Jordan H. Boyle, School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK; Stefano Berri, Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine, St James’s University Hospital, Leeds, UK.