Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Dragonfly brains predict the path of their prey

25.07.2017

New research from Australia and Sweden has shown how a dragonfly's brain anticipates the movement of its prey, enabling it to hunt successfully. This knowledge could lead to innovations in fields such as robot vision.

An article published today in the journal eLife by researchers at the University of Adelaide and Lund University has offered more insights into the complexity of brain processing in dragonflies than has previously been understood.


This is the dragonfly Somatochlora flavomaculata.

Credit: David O'Carroll, Lund University

"Until now, the international research community has primarily considered the capabilities of mammals, such as humans, for investigating how animals can predict where a moving object will be in the near future," says project partner Dr Steven Wiederman from the University of Adelaide's Adelaide Medical School.

"Understandably, mammals in many ways are more complex organisms than insects, but with each discovery we're finding that dragonflies have keen visual and neural processes that could be ideal for translating into technological advances," he says.

The Swedish-Australian collaboration resulted in the discovery of brain cells (neurons) in the dragonfly Hemicordulia that enables them to predictively pursue and catch their flying prey. These neurons make it possible to focus on a small object that moves over a complex background, similarly to how humans can track and catch a ball, even when that ball is moving against the backdrop of a cheering crowd.

Professor David O'Carroll, Professor of Biology at Lund University, says: "The dragonfly neurons can make a selection of a single target from the mass of visual information that the brain receives, such as the motion of another insect, and then predict its direction and future location. The dragonfly, like humans, makes this assessment based on the path along which the object moves.

"In other words, the dragonfly does something very similar to what we do when we track a ball in motion. Despite major differences in the complexity of the brain, evolution has led to the insect using its brain for advanced visual processes that are usually only considered in mammals."

University of Adelaide PhD student Joseph Fabian and other team members were able to record target-detecting neurons in the dragonfly brain. These neurons increased their responses in a small 'focus' area just in front of the location of a moving object being tracked. If the object then disappeared from the field of vision, the focus spread forward over time, allowing the brain to predict where the target was most likely to reappear. The neuronal prediction was based on the previous path along which the prey had flown.

"This is an exciting discovery, and it aids our understanding of how single neurons make advanced predictions based on past history," Dr Wiederman says.

"Our team is convinced that these results will have practical applications, especially in the development of artificial control and vision systems, such as self-steering vehicles and bionic vision."

###

This project is an international collaboration funded by the Swedish Research Council, the Australian Research Council (ARC) and STINT, the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education.

Media Contact:

Dr Steven Wiederman
ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher
Adelaide Medical School
The University of Adelaide
steven.wiederman@adelaide.edu.au

http://www.adelaide.edu.au 

Steven Wiederman | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: brain cells brain evolution dragonfly insect neurons

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Microscope measures muscle weakness
16.11.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

nachricht Good preparation is half the digestion
16.11.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>