A first: Researchers apply efficient coding principle to sense of smell

Apr 25, 2008

For the first time, researchers have demonstrated that the efficient coding principle regarding neurobiological processes applies to sense of smell. The team, comprised of researchers from the Czech Academy of Sciences and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), displays this quantitative relationship in a study of male moths and pheromone plumes, published April 25th in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology.

The efficient coding principle – the adaptation of sensory neurons to the statistical characteristics of their natural stimulus – has previously been studied in visual and auditory neurobiology. In this new study, the researchers have extended this principle to sense of smell, studying how males locate their female mates via pheromone release. The team affirms that olfactory neurons in moths best process those stimuli that occur most frequently.

The authors selected the pheromone olfactory system because it is the only one in aerial animals for which quantitative properties of both the natural stimulus and the reception processes are known. These properties were used to determine the characteristics of the pheromone plume that are best detected by the male neuron reception system. The researchers then matched those characteristics with those from plume measurements in the field, providing quantitative evidence that this system obeys the efficient coding principle.

The researchers note that this study was confined to early detection events, most notably the interaction of pheromone molecules with membrane receptors. Exploring the quantitative relationship between the properties of biological sensory systems and their natural environment should lead not only to a better understanding of neural functions and evolutionary processes, but also to improvements in the design of artificial sensory systems.

Citation: Kostal L, Lansky P, Rospars J-P (2008) Efficient Olfactory Coding in the Pheromone Receptor Neuron of a Moth. PLoS Comput Biol 4(4): e1000053. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000053

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: New study reveals widespread risk of infectious diseases to wild bees

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The cat's meow: Genome reveals clues to domestication

Nov 10, 2014

Cats and humans have shared the same households for at least 9,000 years, but we still know very little about how our feline friends became domesticated. An analysis of the cat genome by researchers at Washington ...

Reducing pesticides and boosting harvests

Sep 17, 2014

Scientists in Italy are experimenting with sound vibrations to replace pesticides. Adapting different eco-friendly methods they are able to boost harvests and open up a new chapter in sustainable farming.

From chaos to order: How ants optimize food search

May 26, 2014

Ants are capable of complex problem-solving strategies that could be widely applied as optimization techniques. An individual ant searching for food walks in random ways, biologists found. Yet the collective ...

Recommended for you

Lifeline extended for critically endangered porpoise

8 minutes ago

Mexico's recent decision to buy-out gillnet fisheries in the upper Gulf of California may give one of the world's rarest species the breathing space it needs to survive. Time is still ticking, but the move ...

New 'enigma' moth helps crack evolution's code

39 minutes ago

Aenigmatinea glatzella – which has iridescent gold and purple wings – is a 'living dinosaur' that represents an entirely new family of primitive moths. This is the first time since the 1970s that a new ...

Hundreds of starving koalas killed in Australia

3 hours ago

Close to 700 koalas have been killed off by authorities in southeastern Australia because overpopulation led to the animals starving, an official said Wednesday, sparking claims of mismanagement.

Bridge jumper says sea lion saved him

3 hours ago

A man who jumped off San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge to try to take his own life and was kept afloat by a sea lion said Wednesday suicide prevention was now his life's work.

Brazil receives macaw pair from Germany

3 hours ago

A pair of endangered blue macaws of the kind made famous by the hit animated "Rio" movies arrived in Brazil from Germany on Tuesday as part of a drive to ensure the bird's survival.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.