Animal senses can be divided into photoreception (vision and general light sensing), chemoreception (smell and taste), mechanoreception (hearing, touch, gravity sensing etc.), electroreception (sensing electric fields) and magnetoreception (sensing the earth magnetic field). The course takes an integrative approach to these senses and illustrates how the functionality of senses is shaped at a number of levels form the dynamics of receptor proteins to the behaviour of the animal. There will be a focus on how the senses sort the in practice infinite amount of information present in the environment and only pick up and process what is of interest to the animal. All the senses are explained and taught comparatively across the animal kingdom and at a number of different levels:
- Molecular biology of the receptors proteins.
- Physiology of sensory cells.
- Anatomy and function of sensory organs.
- Neural processing and integration of sensory information.
- Integrated sensory basis for behavioural schemes and interaction with the environment (sensory ecology).
The course emphasizes an experimental approach to animal senses and includes laboratory exercises where you in groups will conduct experiments with different senses from a number of different animals incl. yourself. This will give you hands on experience with some of the central methods in experimental sensory and neuro biology and allow you to draw conclusions of functionality based on your own data. You will also practice presenting these scientific results in short written reports.
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You obtain a broad and comprehensive knowledge of animal senses and how they differ according to the evolutionary history and ecology of the animal. This includes knowledge on how different senses apply different constrains to the morphology of the sensory organs, the molecular biology and physiology of the receptor cells, how the acquired information is coded, and how the information is used to control specific animal behaviors. Through your own work you will also gain knowledge on experimental design within neurobiology including knowledge on how to best present complex data.
After having participated in the course you can:
- interpret the connection between animal behavior/communication and the underlying senses
- determine the overall function of a sensory organ based on its structure
- evaluate the sensory quality across different senses and animal groups in the light of evolution and ecology
- design and set up experiments (including electrophysiology) on the quality and functionality of the sensory input from a range of senses.
The course gives you competences for professional work in neurobiology, ecology, medical science and zoology not least animal caretaking. You obtain a broad but also detailed knowledge of the diversity of sensory organs in the animal kingdom from jellyfish to humans which allows you to critically analyze and evaluate how animals through their senses are adapted to the environment they live in. The course illustrates the important connections between receptor molecules, sensory cells, sensory organs, and animal behavior. By addressing all these different levels in an integrative way it provides you with competences to deconstruct and understand complex biological problems by examining specific details separately. The course also provides an ideal background for continued detailed studies of animal ecology, sensory physiology, animal behavior, and neurobiology in general.
Open for students with a bachelor degree in biology and others with a comparable background in neurobiology and zoology.
Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.