Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Biomechanics of information: Going more miles per gallon with your brain

Date:
June 5, 2010
Source:
Northwestern University
Summary:
The hunting strategy of a slender fish from the Amazon is giving researchers more insight into how to balance the metabolic cost of information with the metabolic cost of moving around to get that information.

The hunting strategy of a slender fish from the Amazon is giving researchers more insight into how to balance the metabolic cost of information with the metabolic cost of moving around to get that information.

Related Articles


A new study from Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science answers the question: In behaviors in which you have to move to get information, when should the animal spend more energy on locomotion versus spending more energy on getting more information?

The study is published by the journal PLoS Computational Biology.

Malcolm MacIver, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and of biomedical engineering at McCormick, led a team that analyzed the hunting behavior of the weakly electric black ghost knifefish, native to the Amazon. It hunts at night using a self-generated electric field to sense its surroundings, like a bat uses sonar. This particular animal has become the fruit fly of studies on how animals process sensory information. (The fruit fly has been used extensively to study genetics and developmental biology.)

The fish hunts while its body is tilted downward, which, much like standing up on the pedals of a bicycle while going downhill, causes more than twice as much resistance to movement than if the fish were swimming with no tilt. However, this posture allows the fish to scan a wider area of fresh water and encounter more prey. The researchers found that the increased cost of movement caused by body tilting was more than counterbalanced by increased sensory performance. Past a certain angle of tilt beyond what was naturally observed, the additional cost of moving with the body tilted was greater than the energy gained by sensing more prey.

Neelesh Patankar, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Northwestern, worked with MacIver to develop a hydrodynamic simulation code to calculate the drag forces of the fish when it's hunting and when it's just cruising.

"Once we do simulations we can analyze the hydrodynamics of the fish and come up with an understanding as to why it has to spend energy in this scenario and what is the optimal situation where it can spend minimum energy, for example," said Patankar, a co-author of the study.

"That the fish tilts to be able to scan a larger area for prey despite the energy expense is a very interesting result," MacIver said. "To better understand the way animals are the way they are, we need to not look only at neurological function or only at sensory function -- we have to look at mechanics. We need to think of the intelligence of the body as a central component to our overall intelligence and think of energy saving as cleverness."

The results of the study also suggest that hunting at a drag-inducing position could be the basis for fish's unusual, elongated body.

These findings give insight into certain patterns in animal evolution, such as why we and most other animals have moveable sensory systems like eyes, fingers and arms, MacIver said. "If the fish was able to swivel its region of prey sensitivity, like a vision-based animal can shift its gaze, it would save even more energy," he said. "This conclusion helps us understand why animals like us can move our eyes."

In addition to MacIver and Patankar, the other author of the paper is Anup Shirgaonkar, a former postdoctoral fellow who worked in both MacIver's and Patankar's labs.

The National Science Foundation supported the research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northwestern University. The original article was written by Erin White. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Malcolm A. MacIver, Neelesh A. Patankar, Anup A. Shirgaonkar, Karl J. Friston. Energy-Information Trade-Offs between Movement and Sensing. PLoS Computational Biology, 2010; 6 (5): e1000769 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000769

Cite This Page:

Northwestern University. "Biomechanics of information: Going more miles per gallon with your brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100603193938.htm>.
Northwestern University. (2010, June 5). Biomechanics of information: Going more miles per gallon with your brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100603193938.htm
Northwestern University. "Biomechanics of information: Going more miles per gallon with your brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100603193938.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A team of scientists led by Danish chemist Jorn Christensen says they have isolated two chemical compounds within an existing antipsychotic medication that could be used to help a range of failing antibiotics work against killer bacterial infections, such as Tuberculosis. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hugging It Out Could Help You Ward Off A Cold

Hugging It Out Could Help You Ward Off A Cold

Newsy (Dec. 21, 2014) Carnegie Mellon researchers found frequent hugs can help people avoid stress-related illnesses. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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