Winnerless competition between sensory neurons generates chaos: A possible mechanism for molluscan hunting behavior.

Varona, P., Rabinovich, M. I., Selverston, A. I., and Arshavsky, Y. I.
Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science, 12:672–677, 2002
DOI, Google Scholar


In the presence of prey, the marine mollusk Clione limacina exhibits search behavior, i.e., circular motions whose plane and radius change in a chaotic-like manner. We have formulated a dynamical model of the chaotic hunting behavior of Clione based on physiological in vivo and in vitro experiments. The model includes a description of the action of the cerebral hunting interneuron on the receptor neurons of the gravity sensory organ, the statocyst. A network of six receptor model neurons with Lotka-Volterra-type dynamics and nonsymmetric inhibitory interactions has no simple static attractors that correspond to winner take all phenomena. Instead, the winnerless competition induced by the hunting neuron displays hyperchaos with two positive Lyapunov exponents. The origin of the chaos is related to the interaction of two clusters of receptor neurons that are described with two heteroclinic loops in phase space. We hypothesize that the chaotic activity of the receptor neurons can drive the complex behavior of Clione observed during hunting.


see Levi2005 for short summary in context

My biggest concern with this paper is that the changes in direction of the mollusc may also result from feedback from the body and especially the stratocysts during its accelerated swimming. The question is, are these direction changes a result of chaotic, but deterministic dynamics in the sensory network as suggested by the model, or are they a result of essentially random processes which may be influenced by feedback from other networks? The authors note that in their model “The neurons keep the sequence of activation but the interval in which they are active is continuously changing in time”. After a day of search for papers which have investigated the swimming behaviour of Clione limacina (the mollusc in question) I came to the conclusion that the data schown in Fig. 1 likely is the only data set of swimming behaviour that was published. This small data set suggests random changes in direction, in contrast to the model, but it does not allow to draw any definite conclusions about the repetitiveness of direction changes.

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