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Raising the Connectome: The Emergence of Neuronal Activity and Behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans

  • Alicea, Bradly1, 2
  • 1 Orthogonal Research and Education Laboratory, Champaign, IL , (United States)
  • 2 OpenWorm Foundation, Boston, MA , (United States)
Published Article
Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Sep 15, 2020
DOI: 10.3389/fncel.2020.524791
PMID: 33100971
PMCID: PMC7522492
PubMed Central


The differentiation of neurons and formation of connections between cells is the basis of both the adult phenotype and behaviors tied to cognition, perception, reproduction, and survival. Such behaviors are associated with local (circuits) and global (connectome) brain networks. A solid understanding of how these networks emerge is critical. This opinion piece features a guided tour of early developmental events in the emerging connectome, which is crucial to a new view on the connectogenetic process. Connectogenesis includes associating cell identities with broader functional and developmental relationships. During this process, the transition from developmental cells to terminally differentiated cells is defined by an accumulation of traits that ultimately results in neuronal-driven behavior. The well-characterized developmental and cell biology of Caenorhabditis elegans will be used to build a synthesis of developmental events that result in a functioning connectome. Specifically, our view of connectogenesis enables a first-mover model of synaptic connectivity to be demonstrated using data representing larval synaptogenesis. In a first-mover model of Stackelberg competition, potential pre- and postsynaptic relationships are shown to yield various strategies for establishing various types of synaptic connections. By comparing these results to what is known regarding principles for establishing complex network connectivity, these strategies are generalizable to other species and developmental systems. In conclusion, we will discuss the broader implications of this approach, as what is presented here informs an understanding of behavioral emergence and the ability to simulate related biological phenomena.

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