Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Twitching whiskers tell all

21.01.2004


Study shows that perception is tied to movement



Our fingers run over surfaces; our eyes are in constant motion. This is all a part of "active sensing," key principles of which have now been uncovered by a Weizmann Institute study.

"We intuitively understand that active sensing should provide the brain with information very different from that which is acquired by mere passive sensing, (e.g. feeling without finger movement)," says Prof. Ehud Ahissar of the Neurobiology Department, "yet current experiments nearly always keep the organs stationary." Much of his recent research focuses on discovering how the sensory nerves in these organs perform when in motion. Such research, he hopes, will deepen our understanding of perception, and help optimize the design of artificial sensory aids for the deaf and blind.


Rats’ whiskers, which sweep back and forth to locate and appraise objects in the immediate vicinity, are an ideal tool for studying the active aspects of perception. Working with doctoral student Marcin Szwed and Dr. Knarik Bagdasarian, Ahissar recorded the transmissions of neurons that connect whiskers to the brain. Tracking these cells’ responses while whisker hairs actively swept over objects, they saw that two basic types of neurons came into play. The first, which they call whisking neurons, respond solely to the whisking motion itself, regardless of whether the whiskers touch an object or not.

The second type, which they dubbed touch neurons, informs the brain about the surface being touched. Some of these cells respond immediately upon contact; others relay further information during prolonged contact; and yet others fire briefly as contact is broken.

"These mechanisms were previously overlooked," says Szwed, "simply because the cells were rarely recorded during active movement." These latest findings, published in the Oct. 29 issue of Neuron, indicate that perception is a dynamic dance in which hands, eyes and whiskers move towards the world to actively seek out sensation.

Prof. Ehud Ahissar’s research is supported by the the Carl and Micaela Einhorn-Dominic Institute for Brain Research; the Nella and Leon Benoziyo Center for Neurosciences; the Abramson Family Foundation, Washington, D.C.; the Edith C. Blum Foundation, New York, NY; the Irving B. Harris Foundation, Chicago, IL; and Mrs. Esther Smidof, Switzerland. Prof. Ahissar is the incumbent of the Helen and Sanford Diller Family Professorial Chair in Neurobiology.

Alex Smith | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.weizmann.ac.il/

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Self-organising system enables motile cells to form complex search pattern
07.05.2019 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

nachricht Mouse studies show minimally invasive route can accurately administer drugs to brain
02.05.2019 | Johns Hopkins Medicine

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New studies increase confidence in NASA's measure of Earth's temperature

A new assessment of NASA's record of global temperatures revealed that the agency's estimate of Earth's long-term temperature rise in recent decades is accurate to within less than a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, providing confidence that past and future research is correctly capturing rising surface temperatures.

The most complete assessment ever of statistical uncertainty within the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) data product shows that the annual values...

Im Focus: The geometry of an electron determined for the first time

Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.

The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

On Mars, sands shift to a different drum

24.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Piedmont Atlanta first in Georgia to offer new minimally invasive treatment for emphysema

24.05.2019 | Medical Engineering

Chemical juggling with three particles

24.05.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>