Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How Animals Identify Each Other: Insights Into How The Nervous System Processes Sensory Information

Date:
April 28, 2008
Source:
Stowers Institute for Medical Research
Summary:
The results of large-scale imaging experiments examining how social signals are represented in the sensory system have just been published. Working with a newly-developed line of transgenic mice that expresses the genetic calcium indicator G-CaMP2, the team monitored neural activity in the vomeronasal organ, a sensory organ found in many vertebrate animals that detects pheromones.

The Stowers Institute's Yu Lab has published the results of large-scale imaging experiments examining how social signals are represented in the sensory system. Working with a newly-developed line of transgenic mice that expresses the genetic calcium indicator G-CaMP2, the team monitored neural activity in the vomeronasal organ (VNO), a sensory organ found in many vertebrate animals that detects pheromones.

The findings, which shed light on how animals identify one another, were published in the April 25 issue of Science.

The team's discovery shows that neurons encode information about the identity of animals in very specific ways. Information about gender is encoded by a small population of cells dedicated to detecting sex-specific cues in the urine. Additionally, many of these pheromone cues are regulated by the hormonal status of the animals -- conveying their reproductive status.

In contrast, information about the genetic background and pedigree of an animal is encoded by the combinatorial activation of cells. Such combinatorial activation is unique for each individual, so each animal can be recognized by the signature pheromones they carry.

"We are interested in understanding how the nervous system processes sensory information to generate meaningful perception and behavioral output," said Jie He, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Associate and first author on the paper. "In order to understand the process, we examined the mouse vomeronasal system because we knew it processed pheromone information in a robust and stereotyped way. In doing so, we established that vomeronasal neurons are capable of recognizing gender, identifying individuals, and detecting the physiological status of the animal."

This is believed to be the first study of VNO activation by natural pheromones at the systems level. It reveals an extraordinary richness of pheromone cues and some striking features of pheromone representation in the VNO.

"Our study shows that a dedicated neural circuit is likely involved in processing important social information such as gender," said Ron Yu, Ph.D., Assistant Investigator and senior author on the paper. "Although the importance of pheromones in social communication has been recognized for decades, we knew little about the nature of these signals at the sensory level. This work addresses this issue and provides insight into how social information is processed in the nervous system."

Although, as a species, human beings no longer rely on pheromones in social communications, the functioning of the nervous system follows principles similar to those revealed by the Yu Lab's mouse studies. The neural circuitry in the human brain underlies complex human behaviors. Proper formation of the neural circuitry and seamless processing of sensory information are essential for mental health.

Alterations in either can lead to devastating psychiatric and neurological diseases such as schizophrenia, autism, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. Using animal models to dissect the neural circuitry and to reveal the molecular and cellular mechanism behind these important functions of the brain may lead to a better understanding of how the brain works and to possible treatments for neurological diseases.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stowers Institute for Medical Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Stowers Institute for Medical Research. "How Animals Identify Each Other: Insights Into How The Nervous System Processes Sensory Information." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080424140403.htm>.
Stowers Institute for Medical Research. (2008, April 28). How Animals Identify Each Other: Insights Into How The Nervous System Processes Sensory Information. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080424140403.htm
Stowers Institute for Medical Research. "How Animals Identify Each Other: Insights Into How The Nervous System Processes Sensory Information." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080424140403.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) — An animal rescue in Washington state receives an influx of orphaned squirrels, keeping workers busy as they nurse them back to health. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) — In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins