Si elegans concepts

By emulating the C. elegans nervous system, Si elegans will become a neuromimetic computational platform for the reverse-engineering of nervous system function as a blueprint for brain-inspired computational architectures.

The Si elegans consortium will provide the 302 neurons of the nervous system of the nematode C. elegans as highly reconfigurable FPGA-based hardware modules designed in WP 2, which will be mounted on a special framework in support of parallel interconnectivity. These FPGA neurons will be linked in WP 3 by innovative interconnection concepts that not only replicate the known connectome of C. elegans to result in the complete and correctly wired neural circuitry of the nematode, but allow for a truly parallel axo-synaptic information flow between neurons. This hardware nervous system will be embodied in WP 4 by a virtual representation of the nematode (including correct biophysics, sensors and actuators) being situated in a virtual environment with programmable stimuli for real-time behavioural studies. An intuitive and user-friendly software platform will be provided in WP 5 to define arbitrarily detailed neural stimulus-response models for each of the FPGA-based neurons at any of its developmental stages and translate them into HDL code for generating the respective hard-wired algorithms in the FPGA modules. WP 6 is dedicated to the assembly, testing, refinement and functional validation of the platform in an open-access, peer-contribution scheme. A webserver for worldwide public access and use will host the software for defining neural response models, for designing virtual behavioural experiments and for transcoding models into HDL code (WP 5). It will connect to a dedicated computer running the virtual theatre (WP 4) and interfacing to the Si elegans hardware framework (WP 2 & 3) for its programming and for the real-time, closed-loop run-time streaming of sensory input stimuli and motor output commands between the virtual worm and the respective sensory and motor neurons of its "hard-wired" nervous system. Various public outreach and dissemination instruments will be effectuated in WP 7 for promoting the platform to the scientific community and soliciting industrial technology exploitation and inter-project collaboration partnerships.

Overview on WP structure and activity dependencies. L: workpackage leader, P: partners involved.
  • WP1 Management (Leader: [1] IIT.NBT).
  • WP2 Development and deployment of dynamically reconfigurable FPGA representations of C. elegans neurons and muscles which can be individually programmed with any stimulus-response model through the web platform (WP 6) by any researcher in the scientific community. (Leader: [2] UU.ISRC)
  • WP3 Design of universal module 3D interconnection schemes for the 302 FPGA modules (WP 2) to replicate the C. elegans connectome. (Leader: [1] IIT. NAST)
  • WP4 Generation of a virtual behavioural software arena for the embodiment of the C. elegans nervous system emulation (WP 2 & 3) to allow for realistic behavioural studies. (Leader: [3] VT.eHBA)
  • WP5 Development of a user-friendly and intuitive GUI-based neural model definition environment, of a model-to-HDL translation with logic synthesis for FPGA configuration and of a network state analysis tool to allow neuron model implementation or import into the neuronal FPGA module database from existing neural response definition programs used in the scientific community and for the reverse-engineering of nervous system function. (Leader: [4] NUI.BIRC)
  • WP6 Assembly of Si elegans platform, validation of its functionality (WP 2-5) and its deployment for public access to explore, independently validate and exploit the power of the new computational paradigm for the generation of new knowledge and ideas. (Leaders: [3] VT.eHBA & partners)
  • WP7 Dissemination of Si elegans through various awareness and outreach measures, EU-wide and international collaboration and scientific as well as technological exploitation to ensure highest scientific, technological and societal impact of Si elegans and related projects. (Leader: IIT supported by all partners)