Ortus is a simple virtual organism that also serves as an initial framework for investigating and developing biologically-based artificial intelligence. Born from a goal to create complex virtual intelligence and an initial attempt to model C. elegans, Ortus implements a number of mechanisms observed in organic nervous systems, and attempts to fill in unknowns based upon plausible biological implementations and psychological observations. Implemented mechanisms include excitatory and inhibitory chemical synapses, bidirectional gap junctions, and Hebbian learning with its Stentian extension. We present an initial experiment that showcases Ortus’ fundamental principles; specifically, a cyclic respiratory circuit, and emotionally-driven associative learning with respect to an input stimulus. Finally, we discuss the implications and future directions for Ortus and similar systems.