Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How gerbils orient in the light of the setting sun

22.01.2015

A light brown remains light brown: For gerbils, the fur color of their conspecifics appears identical under different lighting conditions. The ability of color constancy in rodents has been demonstrated for the first time by Munich neurobiologists. The findings are published in the current issue of the Journal of Vision.

A green apple is green, but the green is not always the same. In varying light conditions—like at sunset—the spectrum of the light that is reflected by the fruit and falls on our retina, changes. Nevertheless, we continue to perceive the color of the apple as green because the human brain compensates for the influences of illumination by evaluating the color and brightness composition across the entire visual field.


A dark-colored gerbil (figure A, top right) recognizes its dark fellow, although due to the shadow the fur of the light brown animal (bottom left) has a more similar spectral composition (figure B).

Copyright: Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, 2015

This capacity is known as color and brightness constancy and is important for object recognition. Researchers at the Bernstein Center Munich and the LMU Munich, led by Kay Thurley and Thomas Wachter, have now investigated whether rodents also possess this remarkable perceptual ability.

In the study, the researchers showed gerbils colored patches on different colored backgrounds. The animals were looking at a screen while sitting on a sphere that worked like a treadmill. They were thus able to virtually move towards the stimuli and select one of it as response.

During the experiment, half of the animals had to identify the object in which the patch appeared more greenish than its background. The other animals had to identify the object they perceived as bluish compared to its background. When the rodents gave the correct answer, they received a food reward.

"The gerbils reliably recognized the correct patches despite varying color compositions across the experimental trials," explains Thomas Wachtler. Hence, under different lighting conditions the rodents consistently perceive a green apple or a brown fur as green or brown, respectively.

Moreover, they also perceive the brightness of an object as constant, as the researchers demonstrated in another experiment. Gerbils are thus the first rodents shown to have the ability of color and brightness constancy. The result suggests that other animals may possess this perceptual ability, too.

"For gerbils, which are diurnal and crepuscular animals, the ability to accurately identify objects despite changing lightning conditions is essential for survival. They orient using their sense of vision to forage or recognize conspecifics," says Kay Thurley, main author of the study. The result has significant implications for neurobiology: "Gerbils are a popular animal model in auditory neuroscience. But in contrast to other rodents, gerbils also have well developed vision, making these rodents especially suitable for experiments in virtual realities," Thurley says.

The Bernstein Center Munich is part of the National Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience in Germany. With this funding initiative, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has supported the new discipline of Computational Neuroscience since 2004 with over 180 million Euros. The network is named after the German physiologist Julius Bernstein (1835-1917).

Contact:
PD Dr. Thomas Wachtler
LMU Munich
Department Biology II
Großhaderner Straße 2
82152 Martinsried
Tel: +49 (0)89 2180 74810 

Email: wachtler@bio.lmu.de

Dr. Kay Thurley
LMU Munich
Department Biology II
Großhaderner Straße 2
82152 Planegg-Martinsried
Tel: +49 (0)89 2180 74823
E-Mail: thurley@bio.lmu.de

Original publication:
C. Garbers, J. Henke, C. Leibold, T. Wachtler & K. Thurley (2015): Contextual processing of brightness and color in Mongolian gerbils. Journal of Vision, 15(1), 1 – 13.
doi: 10.1167/15.1.13

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.bccn-munich.de/people/kay-thurley Webpage Kay Thurley
http://neuro.bio.lmu.de/research_groups/res-wachtler_th Webpage Thomas Wachtler
http://www.uni-muenchen.de LMU Munich
http://www.bccn-munich.de Bernstein Center Munich
http://www.nncn.de/en National Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience

Mareike Kardinal | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Molecular Force Sensors
20.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

nachricht Foster tadpoles trigger parental instinct in poison frogs
20.09.2017 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

Im Focus: Silencing bacteria

HZI researchers pave the way for new agents that render hospital pathogens mute

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Molecular Force Sensors

20.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Producing electricity during flight

20.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

20.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>