Additional Participants

Graduate Student

Weihong Qi
Carrie Diaz Eaton
Boyan Peshlov

Undergraduate Student

Jason Sewall
Megan Flynn

Technician, Programmer

Joseph Svitak

Organizational Partners

Montana State University
University of Edinburgh

Project Period

August 15, 2001-November 30, 2004

Level of Access

Open-Access Report

Grant Number


Submission Date



A fundamental question in neuroscience is how natural sensory stimuli are encoded for information handling by the brain. Invertebrate animals often offer systems that are in some ways simpler than those of mammals, and including such features as identifiable single cells in networks of relatively few numbers. This collaborative project exploits a sensory system called the cercal system of the cricket, in which small appendages on the rear of the body contain fine hairs that are used to detect, identify and localize behaviorally relevant air current movements, such as those produced by a predator. The input from roughly 2000 receptor cells converges on 30 local interneurons and only 20 output interneurons that lead to behavior such as escape. Three collaborators at two institutions use computational and mathematical analyses of a database of anatomical and physiological measurements on the 'dynamic map' that does the central processing in the brain of the peripheral signals. The goals are to characterize the representation of dynamic sensory stimulus parameters at two processing stages within the mapped sensory system, and to examine the mechanisms that transform the representation at the interface between these two processing stages.

Results will be important for our understanding of information representation in nervous systems, particularly in dynamic processing. The project also will enhance the independent career of a woman faculty member in mathematics, and students will receive multi-disciplinary, highly quantitative training related to biology, in two states that do not currently have high profiles in federally funded research.