Volume 571 Issue 7763, 4 July 2019

The worm-wide web

Knowing how the components of a nervous system are connected together is crucial for understanding how that system works. In this week’s issue, Scott Emmons and his colleagues present complete wiring diagrams for both sexes of the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. These neural maps, or connectomes, which update an influential 1986 publication, were built up from both new and previously published electron micrographs and encompass all connections in the nematode from sensory input to end-organ output. The maps have allowed the researchers to determine the location of each synapse and to assign an indirect measure of the strength of each connection based on the physical size of its constituent synapses. The team was also able to make direct comparisons between the two sexes, and estimate that some 30% of the connections may be substantially different in strength between the male and the hermaphrodite. The two connectomes should help to identify the neural circuits responsible for the nematode worm’s behaviour.

Cover image: Steve Gschmeissner/SPL

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