Thanks to salt and hot chili peppers, researchers have found what tells a roundworm to go forward toward dinner or turn to broaden the search. It's a computational mechanism, they say, that is similar to what drives hungry college students to a pizza.
Yes, college students have the calculus center of a worm.
These behavior-driving calculations are done "in a tiny, specialized computer inside a primitive roundworm," says principal investigator Shawn Lockery, a University of Oregon biologist and member of the UO Institute of Neuroscience.
In the paper, the researchers documented how two related, closely located chemosensory neurons, acting in tandem, regulate behavior. The left neuron controls an on switch, while the opposing right one an off switch. These sister neurons are situated much like the two nostrils or two eyes of mammals. Together these neurons are known as ASE for antagonistic sensory cues.