The Si elegans Project – The Challenges and Prospects of Emulating Caenorhabditis elegans

Axel Blau, Frank Callaly, Seamus Cawley, Aedan Coffey, Alessandro De Mauro, Gorka Epelde, Lorenzo Ferrara, Finn Krewer, Carlo Liberale, Pedro Machado, Gregory Maclair, TM McGinnity, Fearghal Morgan, Andoni Mujika, Alessandro Petrushin, Gautier Robin, John Wade

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
136 Downloads (Pure)


Caenorhabditis elegans features one of the simplest nervous systems in nature, yet its biological information processing still evades our complete understanding. The position of its 302 neurons and almost its entire connectome has been mapped. However, there is only sparse knowledge on how its nervous system codes for its rich behavioral repertoire. The EU-funded Si elegans project aims at reverse-engineering C. elegans‘ nervous system function by its emulation. 302 in parallel interconnected field-programmable gate array (FPGA) neuronswill interact through their sensory and motor neurons with a biophysically accurate soft-body epresentation of the nematode in a virtual behavioral arena. Each FPGA will feature its own reprogrammable neural response model that researchers world-wide will be able to modify to test their neuroscientific hypotheses. In a closed-feedback loop, any sensory xperience of the virtual nematode in its virtual environment will be processed by sensory and subsequently interconnected neurons to result in motor commands at neuromuscular junctions at the hardware-software interface to actuate virtual muscles of the virtual nematode. Postural changes in the virtual world will lead to a new sensory experience and thus close the loop. In this contribution we present the overall concepts with special focus on the virtual embodiment of the nematode. For further information and recent news please visit
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBiomimetic and Biohybrid Systems
EditorsArmin Duff, Nathan F. Lepora, Anna Mura, Tony J. Prescott, Paul F. M. J. Verschure
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-09434-2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Aug 2014


  • Biomimicry
  • Brain-Inspired Computation
  • Nervous System Emulation
  • Soft Body Simulation
  • Virtual World Embodiment
  • Neurocomputational Response Models on FPGAs


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