Locusts are Exceptional when it comes to Recognizing the Smell

Locusts are Exceptional when it comes to Recognizing the Smell

A Locust helped the scientists to figure out the response of a human brain to a similar smell in varying scenarios.

Our brain is the most complex part of the human body. It works through a connection which exists between the senses and the brain. Our senses have immense importance as they play an integral part in our existence. They represent our route to experience new adventures. We have the blessing to understand and feel our world through five senses. Each of them is interconnected with each other and they work together to send signals to the brain. The signals that are registered on to the brain help us distinguish and comprehend a certain object or entity.

Scientists have always wondered about how exactly does a brain works. It has billions of neurons responsible for brain activities. It has always been a question whether these sensory movements affect our brain physically or not. Neurons act as a key element in the study of understanding sensory activities. These are described as a specialized cell transmitting nerve impulses (a nerve cell). In previous researches, scientists proposed that whenever a sensory movement takes place, the set of neurons light up in our brain like fire, or a series of firing activities take place. In extreme scenarios, even a blend of both is possible.

Having said that, a recent research has pointed out towards some other discoveries as well. Upon realizing that there is more to the story, researchers found an interesting test subject, a Locust. A number of scientists tend to believe that the smells we inhale do not occur in a vacuum in our brains but it has an environment build around it. This is where the locust came to our aid in order to find whether this claim is true or not. Experimentation with this test subject revealed some amazing new discoveries. The locust was presented various smells in order to see what exactly happens to its brain when it smells a certain scent.

One of the tasks performed during the training was conducted by placing a hungry locust in front of Hexanol. Later on, he was rewarded with grass. It was repeated 6 times to strengthen the findings. It was found that the locust began to open up palps around its mouth when he smelt Hexanol by anticipating that grass will be fed to it. This gave the researchers enough evidence to research further. The brain activity of the locust was the next thing that was tested. In this trial, the test subject was introduced to both, the distractor scent and the target scent (Hexanol).

In this experiment, the locust was introduced to the target odor on its own to attain the physical activity taking place in the neurons of its brain. However, when locust was exposed to the distractor scent first following with the targeted scent, fireworks began to happen. Various combinations of blazing neurons were observed. This gave the conclusion that brain can react to the same odor differently according to how it is represented. However, there were still doubts that the researchers wanted to clear before arriving at a conclusion.

They got into an argument that how the odor of the same object represented differently would end up being different to the brain neurons. In-depth analysis showed that that it was not as complex as it looked to be in the first place. An Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering explained that by saying,

“An OR-of-ANDs logical operation was sufficient to compensate for variability and allow flexible decoding”.

An example can help in understanding it better if you think about a perfect bed. It can be stated as an article of furniture having legs, a platform, a back, and a mattress. But, if you keep focusing on only these limited traits, you would miss out on a variety of beds. However, if an understanding of bed is considered, it does not need all these features to classify as a bed. Few of these would suffice for the term “bed”. Similarly, locust showed a stable pattern of brain movement when smelling the target alone, but some of the fixed attributes forced the neurons to fire when it was presented with the distractor scent. It inevitably proved that the theory of “OR-of-ANDs”. Scientists believe that the neurons of the humans also work in a similar fashion.

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