The Connectome of a Decision-Making Neural Network

The Connectome of a Decision-Making Neural Network

Travis A. Jarrell, Yi Wang, Adam E. Bloniarz, Christopher A. Brittin, Meng Xu, J. Nichol Thomson, Donna G. Albertson, David H. Hall, and Scott W. Emmons

Science 27 July 2012: Vol. 337 no. 6093 pp. 437-444 doi: 10.1126/science.1221762


In order to understand the nervous system, it is necessary to know the synaptic connections between the neurons, yet to date, only the wiring diagram of the adult hermaphrodite of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has been determined. Here, we present the wiring diagram of the posterior nervous system of the C. elegans adult male, reconstructed from serial electron micrograph sections. This region of the male nervous system contains the sexually dimorphic circuits for mating. The synaptic connections, both chemical and gap junctional, form a neural network with four striking features: multiple, parallel, short synaptic pathways directly connecting sensory neurons to end organs; recurrent and reciprocal connectivity among sensory neurons; modular substructure; and interneurons acting in feedforward loops. These features help to explain how the network robustly and rapidly selects and executes the steps of a behavioral program on the basis of the inputs from multiple sensory neurons.

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