Wriggling abiotic MetaWorm manifests “intelligent life” rudiment

When stimulated by food signals, MetaWorm, a simulation model of a roundworm, wriggles its body forward like a living worm.

When stimulated by food signals, MetaWorm, a simulation model of a roundworm, wriggles its body forward like a living worm.

MetaWorm mimics the 96 muscles and 302 neurons that compose the one-millimeter-long soft body of Caenorhabditis elegans, a type of roundworm. It was revealed at the Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence (BAAI) Conference 2022 held Tuesday.

Developed by BAAI, MetaWorm can smell and move under the high-precision simulations of 106 neurons which are relevant to the dynamic mechanism.

Currently, the MetaWorm model has the highest precision compared to its counterparts, according to Huang Tiejun, director of BAAI. The model has achieved breakthroughs in intelligence, movement and biological functions simulation, said Huang.

High-precision simulations of the microscopic roundworm at the subcellular level contribute to the development of artificial intelligence (AI) theories, life science and neuroscience, said Ma Lei, vice director of the life simulation center with BAAI.

According to MetaWorm’s developers, today, AI still cannot fully imitate the intelligent behaviors of the worm. While the species is a less sophisticated life form, it is also the smallest carrier of AI achieved by neural simulations up to now, said Ma.

Simulation of the structure and mechanism of the nervous system of animals’ brains is the most cost-effective technical approach to navigating intelligence, said Huang.

Since a single neuron possesses massive calculation capability, a small number of neurons can handle smart tasks with high-precision simulations, said Ma.

Real-time simulation technology and shape modeling also create a 3D liquid environment to train MetaWorm. MetaWorm sniffs the chemical signals and moves toward targets as a real roundworm.

According to Ma, by calculating how neuroelectrodynamics signals transmit to the roundworm’s muscles, MetaWorm’s muscles can wriggle after the interaction with the environment.

In a further stage, MetaWorm is expected to develop intelligent behaviors including obstacle avoidance and foraging,” said Ma.

This news was originally published by Xinhua.