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Deciphering the need for multisensory integration in the antennal motor system of hawkmoths, using a combination of experimental and computational techniques
(CB/KTH, Sweden and NCBS, India)
Insect antennae provide a wide variety of sensory inputs to the insect nervous system. Antennal sensors send olfactory, mechanosensory and in some cases, thermosensory and hygrosensory information to the nervous system. For optimal acquisition of these inputs, precise positioning of the antennae might be essential. The antennal muscles position the antennae and have been found to receive information from at least two disparate sensory modalities. Mechanosensory information is one of the two types received. Mechanosensory inputs are rapid, low latency inputs from two organs : the Johnston’s organs and the Böhm's bristles. Recent studies have shown that Böhm's bristles help in maintaining a constant inter-antennal angle during flight. Vision is the second type of sensory input received by antennal muscles. Vision, which is comparatively slow, has also been shown to influence antennal positioning in insects. The antennal motor system seems to integrate these two forms of information to position the antennae. How (and why) these sensory modalities are combined is not currently known.
I will start my talk by introducing the field of insect flight, and slowly lead up to the question of multisensory integration in the antennal muscles. I will then break this question down into smaller ones and end by explaining my plan to answer these smaller questions using computational modeling.