Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization -- Department for Nonlinear Dynamics and Network Dynamics Group
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BCCN AG-Seminar

Tuesday, 16.10.2007 17 c.t.

Dimensionality and dynamics in the behavior of C elegans

by Dr. Greg Stephens
from Department of Physics and Center for Brain, Mind and Behavior, Princeton University, USA

Contact person: Fred Wolf


Seminarraum Haus 2, 4. Stock (Bunsenstr.)


A major challenge in analyzing animal behavior is to discover some underlying simplicity in complex motor actions. Here we show that the space of shapes adopted by the nematode C. elegans is surprisingly low dimensional, with just four dimensions accounting for 95% of the shape variance, and we partially reconstruct ‘equations of motion’ for the dynamics in this space. These dynamics have multiple attractors, and we find that the worm visits these in a rapid and almost completely deterministic response to weak thermal stimuli. Stimulus-dependent correlations among the different modes suggest that one can generate more reliable behaviors by synchronizing stimuli to the state of the worm in shape space. We confirm this prediction, effectively “steering” the worm in real time.

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