Enhancement of Electrosensory Function via Social Interaction

Project: Research project

Project Details


How do brains control behavior? For most behaviors, animals use information gathered by sensory receptors (like vision, touch, and receptors in muscles) to control movement. When an animal or a person moves through its environment, its movement generates widespread stimulation of sensory receptors, such as the flow of visual images on the retina. These studies examine the relationships between movement, sensing, and brain mechanisms to identify fundamental principles for the control of behavior. The work includes a tightly integrated combination of behavioral experiments, mathematical modeling, and neurophysiological experiments that will be conducted in an ideally suited biological system, weakly electric fishes. These fishes have the ability to produce and detect electric fields, which permit experiments and analyses that are not possible in other animals. The behavioral experiments will measure the natural movements and social signals of these fish in the natural habitat of the Amazon basin and in the laboratory. The results will be mathematically modeled to determine the sensory images experienced by the fish in these settings. Reproductions of these sensory experiences will then be presented to the fish in neurophysiological experiments to examine the neural codes and mechanisms for sensory processing and locomotor control. The ultimate goal of the project is to describe basic principles for sensorimotor control that will be applicable to all animals, and can be translated for use in robotic systems. Interestingly, the behavioral studies in the Amazon basin will require the development and deployment of new electronic systems that will be used for environmental monitoring of critical aquatic habitats. Finally, these experiments will involve the training of promising students in both Ecuador and at the Johns Hopkins University in integrative biology and mathematical modeling.

Effective start/end date9/1/086/30/12


  • National Science Foundation: $428,408.00


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