Microbial study reveals sophisticated sensory response

August 1, 2011

All known biological sensory systems, including the familiar examples of the five human senses – vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch – have one thing in common: when exposed to a sustained change in sensory input, the sense eventually acclimates and notices subsequent changes without continuing to compare each new change with the initial condition. This autonomous tuning of perceptions, known as sensory adaptation, has been recognized by scientists for more than a century, but a new study has demonstrated that even a simple microbe can achieve this feat with surprising sophistication.

In a paper appearing online the week of Aug. 1 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics (AMOLF) and the Massachusetts