September 28, 2016 7:00PM - 10:30PM at Kirkwood Station Brewing Co.
Science On Tap is a place where, for the price of a beverage, anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in science and technology. Meetings take place outside a traditional academic context, at the Kirkwood Station Restaurant & Brewing Co.Topic this Month: Understanding—and Hijacking—the Insect's Sense of SmellSpeaker: Barani Raman, Ph.D.Moderator: Cynthia Wichelman, M.DTopic in Detail: What are the design and computing principles of the biological olfactory system? Using locusts and fruit flies as model systems, we will discuss how odorants evoke dynamic patterns of neural responses in the insect brain that allow odor recognition in an invariant fashion. Our current understanding of the biological solution for dealing with variation arising due to external parameters (intensity, changes in humidity) and internal parameters (plasticity, hysteresis) will be explained. We will also look into how, in addition to its chemosensory function, the olfactory system could serve as an early warning sensory modality that conveys information about potential environmental threats. We will conclude with discussion of our recent work in hijacking the insect sense of smell to solve parallel engineering problems.