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This meeting started off with a very interesting and entertaining morning. Great speakers throughout with engaging topics and captivating personalities. It started off with what the speaker, Gasper Jekely, called 'the proto-eye'. He studies phototaxis of the larvae of a simple marine polychaete (Platynereis dumerilii). They only have two eyes (well maybe four, but that would take too far here) and these eyes modulate the ongoing behavior of a ring of cilia which propels the animal. Each eye (which is basically only able to sense if there is light on its side of the animal or not) slows the beating of the cilia when it received light in the adjecent areas of the ciliary ring. The ring and eyes are placed such that this simple modulation leads to reliable phototaxis (i.e. movement towards the light). I thought this was an extremely interesting very simple example of how even simple animals first, spontaneously generate behavior and then the environment acts on this behavior and modulates it.
The second talk was about phonotxis in crickets, by Berthold Hedwig. He presented a lot of interesting data, the most interesting piece for me was how male chirping could entrain female crickets to turn towards non-cricket sounds (they usually ignore non-cricket sounds). Play female crickets alternating chrips left and right and they will turn to each chirp. After a few turns, you play an artificial test sound, which usually doesn't lead to turning, right at the time when the next chirp would come, and the animals turned as if they had heard male chirping for quite some iterations.
The final talk of this session was by Holger Krapp, about multimodal gaze control. He uses the blowfly (Calliphora vicina) to study how visual and mechanical stimuli are perceived and help the animal control its direction of gaze. In particular, he records from neurons in the lobula plate of the fly's visual system. He find that the neurons there are particularly well-tuned to detect visual stimuli which correspond to the main movements of the animal, namely translation and rotation along it's main body axes.
Posted on Monday 24 November 2008 - 17:33:28 comment: 0

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