e , to know which potential dangers and predators a mouse would f

e., to know which potential dangers and predators a mouse would face in the arid regions of the northern Indian subcontinent, the evolutionary cradle of the species ( Boursot et al., 1996). The study of neuronal circuits in a behavioral context, specifically in a comparative, ecological, and/or evolutionary

framework, is usually termed neuroethology. Typically, neuroethological studies are concerned with natural behaviors and are often performed in less established “model” systems. Although a species like the duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) might be impractical as a model overall, or offer no direct general advantage over established systems, species like this may offer unique insights with respect to specific questions, in this instance mammalian electroreception ( Scheich et al., IDO inhibitor 1986). Moreover, expanding neuroscientific studies beyond established laboratory models is naturally also of importance to verify the generality of processes and functions. Comparative approaches,

as in exploring a given trait with differing importance across closely related taxa, can also be an efficient way to identify the functional significance of specific features, be they genes or neurons, correlated with MLN0128 purchase the trait under study. Knowing the ecology of the study animal can provide clues as to the natural context in which a given set of neurons comes into importance, and to relevant external stimuli, in turn providing access to specialized PD184352 (CI-1040) circuits underlying specific behaviors. The ecology can moreover assist in creating improved behavioral assays, better reflecting the behavioral complexity of animals operating in a natural setting, yielding improved behavioral readout possibilities. Neuroethological approaches have provided significant insights into mechanisms underlying a wide variety of

neural processes. A classic example is the auditory map of the barn owl (Tyto alba) ( Knudsen and Konishi, 1978). The nocturnal barn owls are masters at localizing prey through auditory information and are capable of hunting in complete darkness ( Payne, 1971). By recording from the midbrain, while presenting sounds akin to those an owl would encounter in its natural habitat, from various locations in space, Knudsen and Konishi managed to localize an area in the inferior colliculus, housing a set of neurons, so called space-specific neurons, which would only fire once auditory stimuli were delivered from a specific spatial position. The cells in this region were found to be organized in a precise topographic array, with cell clusters arranged to represent the vertical and horizontal location of the sound. Although the barn owl is a highly specialized animal, showing some neuronal features with respect to auditory processing not present in other brain regions or species, the owl’s auditory system nevertheless relies on neural strategies for, e.g.

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