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Baden, Tom (Ed.)Animals modulate sensory processing in concert with motor actions. Parallel copies of motor signals, called corollary discharge (CD), prepare the nervous system to process the mixture of externally and self-generated (reafferent) feedback that arises during locomotion. Commonly, CD in the peripheral nervous system cancels reafference to protect sensors and the central nervous system from being fatigued and overwhelmed by self-generated feedback. However, cancellation also limits the feedback that contributes to an animal’s awareness of its body position and motion within the environment, the sense of proprioception. We propose that, rather than cancellation, CD to the fish lateral line organ restructures reafference to maximize proprioceptive information content. Fishes’ undulatory body motions induce reafferent feedback that can encode the body’s instantaneous configuration with respect to fluid flows. We combined experimental and computational analyses of swimming biomechanics and hair cell physiology to develop a neuromechanical model of how fish can track peak body curvature, a key signature of axial undulatory locomotion. Without CD, this computation would be challenged by sensory adaptation, typified by decaying sensitivity and phase distortions with respect to an input stimulus. We find that CD interacts synergistically with sensor polarization to sharpen sensitivity along sensors’ preferred axes. The sharpening ofmore »
Animals can evolve dramatic sensory functions in response to environmental constraints, but little is known about the neural mechanisms underlying these changes. The Mexican tetra, Astyanax mexicanus , is a leading model to study genetic, behavioral, and physiological evolution by comparing eyed surface populations and blind cave populations. We compared neurophysiological responses of posterior lateral line afferent neurons and motor neurons across A. mexicanus populations to reveal how shifts in sensory function may shape behavioral diversity. These studies indicate differences in intrinsic afferent signaling and gain control across populations. Elevated endogenous afferent activity identified a lower response threshold in the lateral line of blind cavefish relative to surface fish leading to increased evoked potentials during hair cell deflection in cavefish. We next measured the effect of inhibitory corollary discharges from hindbrain efferent neurons onto afferents during locomotion. We discovered that three independently derived cavefish populations have evolved persistent afferent activity during locomotion, suggesting for the first time that partial loss of function in the efferent system can be an evolutionary mechanism for neural adaptation of a vertebrate sensory system.
Ermentrout, Bard (Ed.)Understanding how animals navigate complex environments is a fundamental challenge in biology and a source of inspiration for the design of autonomous systems in engineering. Animal orientation and navigation is a complex process that integrates multiple senses, whose function and contribution are yet to be fully clarified. Here, we propose a data-driven mathematical model of adult zebrafish engaging in counter-flow swimming, an innate behavior known as rheotaxis. Zebrafish locomotion in a two-dimensional fluid flow is described within the finite-dipole model, which consists of a pair of vortices separated by a constant distance. The strength of these vortices is adjusted in real time by the fish to afford orientation and navigation control, in response to of the multi-sensory input from vision, lateral line, and touch. Model parameters for the resulting stochastic differential equations are calibrated through a series of experiments, in which zebrafish swam in a water channel under different illumination conditions. The accuracy of the model is validated through the study of a series of measures of rheotactic behavior, contrasting results of real and in-silico experiments. Our results point at a critical role of hydromechanical feedback during rheotaxis, in the form of a gradient-following strategy.
Fish display a versatile array of swimming patterns, and frequently demonstrate the ability to switch between these patterns altering kinematics as necessary. Many hard and soft robotic systems have sought to understand a variety of aspects pertaining to undulatory swimming, but most have been built to focus solely on a subset of those swimming patterns. We have expanded upon a previous soft robotic model, the pneufish, so that it can now simulate a variety of swimming patterns, much like a real fish. We explore the performance space available for this longer soft robotic model, which we call the quad-pneufish, with particular attention to the effects on lateral forces and z-torques produced during locomotion. We show that the quad-pneufish is capable of achieving a variety of midline patterns—including more realistic, fish-like patterns—and introducing a slight amount of co-activation between the left and right sides maintains forward thrust while decreasing lateral forces, indicating an increase in swimming efficiency. Robotic systems that are capable of producing an array of swimming movement patterns hold promise as experimental platforms for studying the diversity of fish locomotor patterns.
Mechanosensory hairs and hair-like structures in the animal kingdom: Specializations and shared functions serve to inspire technology applicationsBiological mechanosensation has been a source of inspiration for advancements in artificial sensory systems. Animals rely on sensory feedback to guide and adapt their behaviors and are equipped with a wide variety of sensors that carry stimulus information from the environment. Hair and hair-like sensors have evolved to support survival behaviors in different ecological niches. Here, we review the diversity of biological hair and hair-like sensors across the animal kingdom and their roles in behaviors, such as locomotion, exploration, navigation, and feeding, which point to shared functional properties of hair and hair-like structures among invertebrates and vertebrates. By reviewing research on the role of biological hair and hair-like sensors in diverse species, we aim to highlight biological sensors that could inspire the engineering community and contribute to the advancement of mechanosensing in artificial systems, such as robotics.