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A simple web-app for counting events over time
Nov 16, 2010, 11:01a - Science

I've been trying to count the number of times my little worms (aka C. elegans) chew, so a couple weeks ago I wrote a web-app to help me quantify this a bit more accurately. They chew very fast (3-4 times per second), so I needed something that could keep track of that over time. I also needed something that would beep after a specified amount of time, because I didn't want to sit there and just count them forever. I couldn't find anything online that did exactly what I wanted, so I decided to write my own. Introducing...

Countdown Timer with Markers

I know, world-changing, right? Anyhow, it helps me with my research, and maybe it will help some anonymous person out there too.

Why care about C. elegans chewing (aka pumping)? Worms actually chew differently under different conditions. Specifically, they stop chewing when I shine low-wavelength (e.g. blue) light on them. By looking for mutant worms that don't stop chewing, I should be able to learn about the genes and molecules that are required for light-induced chew-stoping. So I take the timing data from my web-app, drop it in Excel, and then draw graphs that show the worm's pumping rate as a function of time.

Why care about light-induced chew-stopping? That's a more difficult question, and I'm not sure I have the most convincing answer (or that I even care about light-induced chew-stopping). Understanding the mechanism that underlies light-induced chew-stopping might tell us something about how light sensation works and also how different groups of neurons communicate with each other. Perhaps I'll write more about this later.

Why not just have a computer vision program score chewing? That would be a lot more programming, and there's no guarantee that I could even get it to work accurately. It's hard enough to see chewing by eye even after lots of training, and the worms are constantly moving around. For now I'm happy with my manual approach.

Read comments (2) - Comment

Gokul Rajan - Nov 16, 2010, 7:49p
Nice work!!

Serena - Feb 11, 2011, 10:51p
cool~ and,worms do phototaxis!

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