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Increasing sensor flexibility through neuromodulation
Birmingham, J.T. (2001). Increasing sensor flexibility through neuromodulation. Biol. Bull. 200: 206-210
In: Biological Bulletin. Marine Biological Laboratory: Lancaster, Pa. etc.. ISSN 0006-3185, more
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  • Birmingham, J.T.

    Both biological and man-made motor control networks require input from sensors to allow for modification of the motor program. Real sensory neurons are more flexible than typical robotic sensors because they are dynamic rather than static. The membrane properties of neurons and hence their excitability can be modified by the presence of neuromodulatory substances. In the case of a sensory neuron, this can change, in a functionally significant way, the code used to describe a stimulus. For instance, extension of the neuron’s dynamic range or modification of its filtering characteristics can result. This flexibility has an apparent cost. The code used may be situation-dependent and hence difficult to interpret. To address this issue and to understand how neuromodulation is used effectively in a motor control network, I am studying the GPR2 stretch receptor in the crustacean stomatogastric nervous system. Several different neuromodulatory substances can modify its encoding properties. Comparisons of physiological and anatomical evidence suggest that neuromodulation can be effected both by GPR2 itself and by other neurons in the network. These results suggest that the analog of neuro-modulation might be useful for improving sensor performance in an artificial motor control system.

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