New Publication

in collaboration with colleagues from Universities of Bristol, Exeter, St. Andrews and the Ershov Institute of Informatics Systems in Siberia

Exciting new collaborative paper out now in Plos Computational Biology!

This original research article discusses the development of two whole-body computer models of the Xenopus laevis tadpole – the Central Nervous System (CNS) model and the 3-D Virtual Tadpole (VT) biomechanical model.

Author Summary: Animals constantly receive sensory signals, make decisions and generate behaviours. We see a red light at a pedestrian crossing, stop, and only walk across at a green light. Two systems control this behaviour: the nervous system processes sensory signals and commands the musculoskeletal system to generate motor responses. Most nervous and musculoskeletal systems are too complex to be able to understand even simple behaviours step by step. To simplify the problem, we study responses to touch in young frog tadpoles. Here, detailed information is available on 12 types of brain and spinal cord neurons controlling swimming. To explore how these neurons work, we create two biologically realistic computational models: a CNS model of the nervous system with approximately 2000 neurons generates motor nerve activity and is fed to a virtual tadpole biomechanical model of the whole-body musculoskeletal system to produce movements. Our results suggest that we understand the essence of how simple behaviour is generated. We propose that a simple sensory memory process in the brain, which extends the brief sensory nerve activity, forms the basis for a decision process. This also generates unpredictability in behaviour.