Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Like humans, lowly cockroach uses a GPS to get around, scientists find


Date: July 7, 2016
Source: Case Western Reserve University

Rats, men and cockroaches appear to have a similar GPS in their heads that allows them to navigate new surroundings, researchers at Case Western Reserve University report.

The finding, published in journal Current Biology, is likely an example of convergent evolution--that is, distinct animals developed similar systems to manage the same problems.
Due to their simpler brain, further studies on cockroaches that would be difficult--if not impossible--on mammals may yield new insights into how humans orient themselves and navigate. Or, what goes awry in people who have extreme trouble getting their bearings.

"We've known that a mammal can come into a new area and, after a short period of being disoriented, find its way around," said Roy Ritzmann, a biology professor at Case Western Reserve and an author of the new study.

Humans and other mammals rely on head-direction, place and grid cells in their brains to process, integrate and update sensory information. The cues come from the direction they look, what they see and motion, he said.

Insects must maneuver through new environments, too.

"Orienting contributes to spatial memory, so they can return to point A or navigate to something they like or away from something they don't like," said PhD student Adrienn G. Varga, lead author of the study.

By repeating experiments that uncovered head-direction cells in rats, Ritzmann and Varga found head-direction-like activity and evidence of contextual cue processing in cockroaches.

The experiment
The researchers recorded cell activities in an area of the brain called the central complex while roaches were restrained in a tube.

Each roach was placed on a platform that rotated clockwise or counter clockwise. The platform was encircled by a black wall with a single removable landmark: a white square.



No comments:

Post a comment

You only need to enter your comment once! Comments will appear once they have been moderated. This is so as to stop the would-be comedian who has been spamming the comments here with inane and often offensive remarks. You know who you are!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

ShareThis