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Did you hear the one about the swimming worm?

Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) began the NeuroAI Scholar program to attract post-masters level and postdoctoral researchers with an interest in combining artificial intelligence (AI) with neuroscience.

AI model of a swimming worm. Image credit: CSHL (still image from the YouTube video)

One goal is to use biology as a model for improving AI. The digital worm seen in this video was created by NeuroAI Scholar Nikhil Bhattasali, working in the laboratories of CSHL Professor Anthony Zador and Assistant Professor Tatiana Engel. Bhattasali developed an algorithm that could figure out on its own how to make a digital worm swim using only about two dozen artificial neurons to calculate motions.

The AI program is based on the worm C. elegans and is designed as a network of artificial neurons that mimic how neurons are structured in the animal. Bhattasali says, “The digital worm starts off knowing how to swim slowly, then learns to swim faster with experience.” Real worms had millions of years of evolution to perfect their swimming motion. They accomplish the task with 302 neurons. However, this digital worm quickly figured out how to swim using far fewer artificial neurons.

CSHL recently launched another new NeuroAI program for undergraduate and graduate students, called the NeuroAI Summer Research Intern program. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis starting each December. The 12-week program starts in May or June.

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