The cercal sensory system of the cricket is being examined using anatomical, physiological, and computer simulation techniques in order to better understand the assembly of sensory systems. This particular sensory system is of interest because it functions like numerically more complex vertebrate sensory systems but offers, to the neuroscientist, the technical advantages of a small number of large identified neurons. Two aspects of sensory processing are being examined in this system; the spatial aspects of a stimulus that tell an animal where a target is in its environment, and the qualities of a stimulus that help the animal to identify the stimulus. The spatial aspects of a stimulus are analyzed by a topographic mapping of the animal's sensory environment. The feature extraction machinery for other aspects of the stimulus lacks any obvious anatomical order and is embedded within the topographic map. We are attempting to tease apart the genetic and the epigenetic components of the assembly process for this sensory system. Here we review our progress with emphasis on the epigenetic aspects of its assembly. We describe previously published work on plasticity as well as new experiments focussed on the role of neuronal activity in the assembly of this neural circuit. Finally, we briefly describe simulation experiments that are helping us understand the role of various forms of synaptic plasticity in the determination of receptive fields.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience