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Inside the brain of a crayfish
Date:9/2/2007

Voyage to the bottom of the sea, or simply look along the bottom of a clear stream and you may spy lobsters or crayfish waving their antennae. Look closer, and you will see them feeling around with their legs and flicking their antennules the small, paired sets of miniature feelers at the top of their heads between the long antennae. Both are used for sensing the environment. The long antennae are used for getting a physical feel of an area, such as the contours of a crevice. The smaller antennules are there to both help the creature smell for food or mates or dangerous predators and also to sense motion in the water that also could indicate the presence of food, a fling or danger. The legs also have receptors that detect chemical signatures, preferably those emanating from a nice hunk of dead fish.

They constantly flick their antennules, says DeForest Mellon, a University of Virginia biology professor, as he watches a Southern swamp crayfish in a bucket doing just that. It is doing two things that are processed simultaneously in the brain as he flicks: smelling the water, and also sensing motion in the water, which can indicate the presence of food or other things of interest. Im interested in understanding how these senses are combined and interpreted in the brain of these animals. My question is, how does the brain detect, integrate and use co-joined but dissimilar sensory inputs" Its much like humans tasting food by a combination of senses that detect taste, aroma, texture and how good that dish of pasta looks. Its a complex process of brain processing that serves us well in a world of smells, textures, flavors and visual stimuli. Its not much different with crustaceans, though their brains are much simpler, which makes them a great study model, Mellon says.

Mellon, and other neurophysiology researchers commonly use crustaceans to try to gain basic understanding of the nervous systems of creatures in general, and, wherever possible, for extr
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Contact: Fariss Samarrai
samarrai@virginia.edu
434-924-3778
University of Virginia
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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