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Microbial study reveals sophisticated sensory response
Date:8/1/2011

ery is that this relative perception is achieved not just for instantaneous changes in the sensory input, but also for changes that occur gradually.

An example of an instantaneous change is a man walking into an unlit room and seeing only darkness until, after a few minutes, his eyes adjust and he's able to make out objects in the room. This adjustment allows the man to effectively ignore the background or overall level of light and instead focus on the "contrast," the change in light relative to the background, to construct the visual scene.

Now consider the man searching for his car keys in a scene with a more gradual change in light, for example, a wooded landscape. The overall brightness of the wooded scene can be considered the background level of sensory input and it will change as he moves through areas that are more densely or sparsely covered by trees. To search for his keys effectively, the man would again like to ignore the background, but this time it is changing continually as he walks. An efficient strategy under these conditions, it turns out, is responding to changes not relative to a fixed background, but rather to the input experienced at every moment in time.

Whether our own eyes can perform this dynamic fold-change detection as in the example above, has yet to be seen. But the new research shows that a simple microbe is capable of this sophisticated sensory behavior and also explains the underlying molecular machinery.


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Contact: Roman Stocker
romans@mit.edu
617-253-3726
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Source:Eurekalert  

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