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Development of a Scheme and Tools to Construct a Standard Moth Brain for Neural Network Simulations

DOI: 10.1155/2012/795291

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Understanding the neural mechanisms for sensing environmental information and controlling behavior in natural environments is a principal aim in neuroscience. One approach towards this goal is rebuilding neural systems by simulation. Despite their relatively simple brains compared with those of mammals, insects are capable of processing various sensory signals and generating adaptive behavior. Nevertheless, our global understanding at network system level is limited by experimental constraints. Simulations are very effective for investigating neural mechanisms when integrating both experimental data and hypotheses. However, it is still very difficult to construct a computational model at the whole brain level owing to the enormous number and complexity of the neurons. We focus on a unique behavior of the silkmoth to investigate neural mechanisms of sensory processing and behavioral control. Standard brains are used to consolidate experimental results and generate new insights through integration. In this study, we constructed a silkmoth standard brain and brain image, in which we registered segmented neuropil regions and neurons. Our original software tools for segmentation of neurons from confocal images, KNEWRiTE, and the registration module for segmented data, NeuroRegister, are shown to be very effective in neuronal registration for computational neuroscience studies. 1. Introduction Insect brains are important model systems for analyzing neural function. This is due to their comparatively simple structure incorporating important brain functions such as sensory information processing, learning, and behavioral control mechanisms [1–3]. Analysis based on the morphologies of neurons and neuropils has greatly promoted the understanding of neural function. In particular, the existence of numerous identified neurons has consolidated the application of insect brains as model neural networks in the field of neuroethology [4, 5]. The detailed morphology of neurons can be captured more readily using recent fluorescence techniques and various genetic technologies in insects [6–9]. These methodological advances have resulted in new insights into brain mechanisms through the use of small and tractable insect brains. A well-known simple insect behavior is the unique orientation to pheromone stimuli displayed by the male silkmoth, Bombyx mori. This programmed behavior triggered by sensing pheromone consists of surge, zigzag, and looping locomotor components [10]. Sensory signal pathways for pheromone have already been identified and characterized by intra- and


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