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Functional Adaptations

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Functional adaptation

Neural circuits compensate for temperature variation: cold-blooded animals
 

The rhythmic neural circuits in cold-blooded animals function in variable temperatures because although their frequency is temperature-dependent, phase is temperature-independent.

     
  "The neural circuits that produce behaviors such as walking, chewing, and  swimming must be both robust and flexible to changing internal and  environmental demands. How then do cold-blooded animals cope with  temperature fluctuations when the underlying processes that give rise to  circuit performance are themselves temperature-dependent? We exploit  the crab stomatogastric ganglion to understand the extent to which  circuit features are robust to temperature perturbations. We subjected  these circuits to temperature ranges they normally encounter in the  wild. Interestingly, while the frequency of activity in the network  increased 4-fold over these temperature ranges, the relative timing  between neurons in the network—termed phase relationships—remained  constant. To understand how temperature compensation of phase might  occur, we characterized the temperature dependence (Q10's) of synapses and membrane currents. We used computational models to show that the experimentally measured Q10's  can promote phase maintenance. We also showed that many model bursting  neurons fail to burst over the entire temperature range and that phase  maintenance is promoted by closely restricting the model neurons' Q10's.  These results imply that although ion channel numbers can vary between  individuals, there may be strong evolutionary pressure that restricts  the temperature dependence of the processes that contribute to  temperature compensation of neuronal circuits.

"…We speculate that the strong temperature dependence of frequency and  temperature-independence of phase may not be unique to the pyloric  circuit of the stomatogastric nervous system and may be a useful  property to other animals, allowing them to cope with environmental  challenges in their natural setting."  (Tang et al. 2010:e1000469)

  Learn more about this functional adaptation.

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Source: AskNature

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