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Non-overlapping neural networks in Hydra vulgaris

Dupre, Christophe

To understand the emergent properties of neural circuits it would be ideal to record the activity of every neuron in a behaving animal and decode how it relates to behavior. We have achieved this with the cnidarian Hydra vulgaris, using calcium imaging of genetically engineered animals to measure the activity of essentially all of its neurons. While the nervous system of Hydra is traditionally described as a simple nerve net, we surprisingly find instead a series of functional networks that are anatomically non-overlapping and are associated with specific behaviors. Three major functional networks extend through the entire animal and are activated selectively during longitudinal contractions, elongations in response to light and radial contractions, while an additional network is located near the hypostome and is active during nodding. Additionally, we show that the behavior of Hydra is made of regularly occurring radial contractions, which expel the content of the gastric cavity about every 45 minutes. These results demonstrate the functional sophistication of apparently simple nerve nets, and the potential of Hydra and other basal metazoans as a model system for neural circuit studies.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Neurobiology and Behavior
Thesis Advisors
Yuste, Rafael
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 1, 2017
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