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An imaging system for standardized quantitative analysis of C. elegans behavior

Zhaoyang Feng1, Christopher J Cronin2, John H Wittig1, Paul W Sternberg23 and William R Schafer1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego, CA USA

2 Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125 USA

3 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125 USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2004, 5:115  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-5-115

Published: 26 August 2004



The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is widely used for the genetic analysis of neuronal cell biology, development, and behavior. Because traditional methods for evaluating behavioral phenotypes are qualitative and imprecise, there is a need for tools that allow quantitation and standardization of C. elegans behavioral assays.


Here we describe a tracking and imaging system for the automated analysis of C. elegans morphology and behavior. Using this system, it is possible to record the behavior of individual nematodes over long time periods and quantify 144 specific phenotypic parameters.


These tools for phenotypic analysis will provide reliable, comprehensive scoring of a wide range of behavioral abnormalities, and will make it possible to standardize assays such that behavioral data from different labs can readily be compared. In addition, this system will facilitate high-throughput collection of phenotypic data that can ultimately be used to generate a comprehensive database of C. elegans phenotypic information.


The hardware configuration and software for the system are available from