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Antennal Interneurons: Activity, Active Sensing and Impact on Walking

Antennal Interneurons: Activity, Active Sensing and Impact on Walking

Supervisors: Dr Berthold Hedwig

Project summary:

How do insects explore their near environment? Much attention is provided to the field of active sensing (Staudacher et al 2005) as it addresses fundamental questions of sensory processing linked to an animal’s own motor activity. Many insects use long antenna to gather close up sensory information. Crickets actively explore their near environment with their long antennae. Four identified giant antennal interneurons in the brain respond to antennal stimulation and provide a fast pathway forwarding motor commands to the thoracic ganglia. The structure of these neurons is well described (Schöneich et al. 2011) and the activity of these neurons can elicit walking and turning behaviour (Zorovic and Hedwig 2011). However, their functional
properties in active and passive sensing and control of walking are not deeply understood. Understanding systems of active sensing will be of importance for fundamental neuroscience and for robotics. Training will be provided in intracellular recordings, neuroanatomical tracing methods, calcium imaging and behavioral studies.


What the student will be doing:

The antennal interneurons will be recorded in tethered crickets which are standing or walking on a trackball. The response of the neurons during mechanical antennal stimulation and active antennal movements will be recorded and analysed using intracellular recordings, current injection and calcium imaging. We expect that individual neurons will show different activity patterns during passive and active sensing and that activity of the neurons will have a strong effect on the animals walking pattern



 Zorović M and Hedwig B (2011) Processing of species-specific auditory patterns in the cricket brain by ascending, local and descending neurons during standing and walking. J Neurophysiol 105: 2181–2194

Schöneich S, Schildberger K, Stevenson PA. (2011) Neuronal organization of a fast-mediating cephalothoracic pathway for antennal-tactile information in the cricket. J Comp Neurol 519(9):1677–90.

Staudacher EM, Gebhardt M, Dürr V. (2005) Antennal movements and mechanoreception: neurobiology of active tactile sensors. Advances in Insect Physiology. 32:49–205.