||BACKGROUND: Multi-sensory integration is necessary for organisms to discriminate different environmental stimuli and thus determine behavior. Caenorhabditis elegans has 12 pairs of amphid sensory neurons, which are involved in generating behaviors such as thermotaxis toward cultivation temperature, and chemotaxis toward chemical stimuli. This arrangement of known sensory neurons and measurable behavioral output makes C. elegans suitable for addressing questions of multi-sensory integration in the nervous system. Previous studies have suggested that C. elegans can process different chemoattractants simultaneously. However, little is known about how these organisms can integrate information from stimuli of different modality, such as thermal and chemical stimuli. RESULTS: We studied the behavior of a population of C. elegans during simultaneous presentation of thermal and chemical stimuli. First, we examined thermotaxis within the radial temperature gradient produced by a feedback-controlled thermoregulator. Separately, we examined chemotaxis toward sodium chloride or isoamyl alcohol. Then, assays for simultaneous presentations of 15 degrees C (colder temperature than 20 degrees C room temperature) and chemoattractant were performed with 15 degrees C-cultivated wild-type worms. Unlike the sum of behavioral indices for each separate behavior, simultaneous presentation resulted in a biased migration to cold regions in the first 10 min of the assay, and sodium chloride-regions in the last 40 min. However, when sodium chloride was replaced with isoamyl alcohol in the simultaneous presentation, the behavioral index was very similar to the sum of separate single presentation indices. We then recorded tracks of single worms and analyzed their behavior. For behavior toward sodium chloride, frequencies of forward and backward movements in simultaneous presentation were significantly different from those in single presentation. Also, migration toward 15 degrees C in simultaneous presentation was faster than that in 15 degrees C-single presentation. CONCLUSION: We conclude that worms preferred temperature to chemoattractant at first, but preferred the chemoattractant sodium chloride thereafter. This preference was not seen for isoamyl alcohol presentation. We attribute this phase-dependent preference to the result of integration of thermosensory and chemosensory signals received by distinct sensory neurons.