Institute hosts international neuroethology meeting

16 July 2018
Participants at the International Congress of Neuroethology Satellite Meeting, Leigh Marine Campus, Institute of Marine Science
Participants at the International Congress of Neuroethology Satellite Meeting, Leigh Marine Campus, Institute of Marine Science.

The University of Auckland’s Leigh Marine Campus were the hosts of a recent International Congress of Neuroethology (ICN) Satellite Meeting from the 12-14 July.

The meeting explored pattern formation in the central nervous system of vertebrates and invertebrates, including marine animals.

Neuroethology is the fundamental understanding of the way animals sense the world and the way in which their nervous systems process information to generate adaptive behaviour. 

This topic encompasses the motor output of central pattern generators (GPGs) for rhythmic behaviours, such as the neural correlates of sound production, song learning, and locomotion.

Marine animals have some extra-ordinary sensory systems, including: electrosense in sharks; 12 channel colour vision in mantis shrimps (in comparison with our 3 channel vision); and the world’s most sophisticated sonar system in dolphins. 

In addition, many of fundamental breakthroughs in understanding the nervous system come from marine animals. 

Squid giant axons provided the means to understand how nerves conduct information through action potentials, and a simple marine snail provided our first mechanistic understanding how learning occurs through a change in the strength of neural connections.

Attendee Darcey B Kelley, Harold Weintraub Professor of Biological Sciences in the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University and Co-Director of the Doctoral Program in Neurobiology and Behaviour, says these discoveries provide bio-inspiration for new technologies. 

“In the not too distant future, autonomous submarines incorporating biomimetic sensing and control will be part of our research platform to further explore the oceans,” she says.

Twenty participants attended from Universities and Academic Institutions from all over the world, including the United States, France, Germany, Israel and India with the topic explicitly chosen to be common to a wide range of neuroethology themes.

This allowed researchers from different International Society for Neuroethology (ISN) interests to participate and include a New Zealand element to their 2018 ICN itinerary.

International participants included, Dr John Simmers, Dr Boris Chagnaud, Professor Patsy Dickinson, Associate Professor Wolfgang Stein, Professor Amir Ayali and more.

Professor Kelley said she found the meeting scientifically very fruitful with good participation from both eminent senior scientists as well as very talented young scientists from New Zealand and across the world. 

“We were all particularly impressed by the station itself, a real jewel and a world-class facility for the innovative marine research that is particularly important at this key juncture in the history of our planet. Such a thoughtful investment by the University of Auckland serves as a strong example for us to take back to our own institutions.”

The International Congress of Neuroethology next met in Brisbane with the University of Auckland represented by Professor John Montgomery and Dr Marie Goeritz.  Marie presented her work on sound production in crabs, and John had a poster display on the evolution of the cerebellum-from sharks to humans.

Associated information

Read the ICN satellite meeting abstracts.