Nematoduino: A Roundworm Neural Model on an Arduino

When it comes to building a neural network to simulate complex behavior, Arduino isn’t exactly the first platform that springs to mind. But when your goal is to model the behavior of an organism with only a handful of neurons, the constraints presented by an Arduino start to make sense.

It may be the most important non-segmented worm you’ve never heard of, but Caenorhabditis elegans, mercifully abbreviated C. elegans, is an important model organism for neurobiology, having had its entire nervous system mapped in 2012. [Nathan Griffith] used this “connectome” to simulate a subset of the diminutive nematode’s behaviors, specifically movements toward attractants and away from obstacles. Riding atop a small robot chassis, the Arduino sends signals to the motors when the model determines it’s time to fire the virtual worm’s muscles. An ultrasonic sensor stands in for the “nose touch” neurons of the real worm, and when the model is not busy avoiding a touch, it’s actively seeking something to eat using the “chemotaxis” behavior. The model is up on GitHub and [Nathan] hopes it provides an approachable platform for would-be neuroroboticists.

This isn’t the first time someone has modeled the nematode’s connectome in silico, but kudos to [Nathan] for accomplishing it within the constraints an Arduino presents.

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Hackaday Links: December 7, 2011

LED Neurons

[Alexandra Olivier] put up an art installation at Wellesley College that looks like a bunch of neurons built out of LEDs. The neurons are connected to a couple PIR sensors and ‘fire’ whenever movement is detected. The result is a lot like being inside a brain. Fitting, then, that the installation is called Social Synapses.

Last year’s big toy was always evil, though

Last year, [Andrew] had to fight the throngs of shoppers to get the must have toy of the season, a Zhu Zhu pet. Since these robotic hamster things have spent the last 11 months in the back of a closet, it seems reasonable to make them evil. They’re still not as evil as a demonic Furby….

So we call it a bifocal, right?

There’s an old photography trick for a really hacky macro setup – just turn the lens around. Well, what if you wanted automatic metering and flash control? Simple, just electrically reverse the lens. Bonus points for being able to use the lens regularly as well.

Control all the bands

Well here’s something cool: an all-in-one USB 315mhz, 433mhz, and 868mhz transceiver. What can you do with it? Well, [codeninja] can control the outdoor lights for two of his neighbors, open gates and doors, crash his weather station, and just about anything else in those bands. It’s pretty much like war driving for important stuff nobody cares about.

So this is our favorite holiday now

There’s a Dutch tradition to play Sinterklaas and make someone a present. [Jenor] decided to build an antique-looking DC voltmeter with a pair of vacuum tubes. The tubes don’t work anymore, but the heaters still provide a nice warm glow. It’s a bit large to be regularly used as a piece of test equipment, but it really does look awesome. Very steampunkey, and it’s the though that counts anyway.

Controlling muscles with high intensity magnetic pulses


We’re not quite sure what’s going on with our fellow hackers lately, but they all seem quite interested in finding inventive ways to scramble their brains. [Ben Krasnow] has put together a pair of videos detailing his experiments in transcranial magnetic stimulation, a process that looks like it would go quite nicely with the Brainwave Disruptor we showed you just yesterday.

Instead of building a coil gun with a set of supercapacitors he had on hand, [Ben] decided to build a magnetic coil that can be used to stimulate his brain through his skull. Once his capacitor bank is charged, a high current pulse is sent through the coil held against his head. This pulse generates a strong magnetic field in the coil, which in turn produces neuron stimulation in his primary motor cortex.

Be sure to watch both videos embedded below, as the first one mostly covers the theory behind his experiments, while the second video gives us the goods.

[Ben’s] day job involves working with professional grade TMS devices, so he has some experience with this technology. Before you try this on your own, be sure that you are doing this safely, because a misdirected pulse of 1700 volts to the head does not sound like a fun time at all.

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