Alejandro Morales, Tom Froese
The nervous system of the nematode soil worm Caenorhabditis elegans exhibits remarkable complexity despite the worm’s small size. A general challenge is to better understand the relationship between neural organization and neural activity at the system level, including the functional roles of inhibitory connections. Here we implemented an abstract simulation model of the C. elegans connectome that approximates the neurotransmitter identity of each neuron, and we explored the functional role of these physiological differences for neural activity. In particular, we created a Hopfield neural network in which all of the worm’s neurons characterized by inhibitory neurotransmitters are assigned inhibitory outgoing connections. Then, we created a control condition in which the same number of inhibitory connections are arbitrarily distributed across the network. A comparison of these two conditions revealed that the biological distribution of inhibitory connections facilitates the self-optimization of coordinated neural activity compared with an arbitrary distribution of inhibitory connections.