Harvard Condensed Matter Theory Seminars

Aravinthan Samuel, Harvard University

How worms navigate thermal gradients
When purposefully navigating their environments, small organisms have to be able to evaluate their own orientation with respect to ambient gradients. Many organisms have to solve this problem using highly localized sensory information, in the extreme case, using pointlike sensory receptors situated on their surfaces (like the chemoreceptors on bacteria). The problem of navigation can be interpreted as a problem in computation. Here, I will discuss the case of C. elegans thermotaxis. When navigating spatial thermal gradients, the worm continuously monitors temporal variations in ambient temperatures in computing movement decisions. We find that the worm crawls down gradients or crawls along isotherms on the basis of temporal signal processing alone.

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