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Physics Colloquium Series: Professor Wolfgang Stein
(Physics Lecture Series) Illinois State University, School of Biological Sciences
“How Neurons Keep Their Cool When It Is Getting Hot”
All physiological processes are influenced by temperature. This is a particular problem for the nervous system as temperature changes can disrupt the well- balanced flow of ions across the cell membrane necessary for maintaining nerve cell function. Possessing compensatory mechanisms that counterbalance detrimental temperature effects and maintain vital behaviors is especially important for poikilothermic (‘cold-blooded’) animals that do not actively maintain their body temperature and experience substantial temperature fluctuations. Compensatory mechanisms are also crucial for homeotherms when pathological conditions lead to body temperature changes. We use the crustacean stomatogastric nervous system with its well-characterized central pattern generators to study mechanisms that allow the nervous system to maintain neuronal activity and long-distance communication over a range of different temperatures. In particular, we investigate how neurons maintain the balance of ionic conductances to compensate for detrimental temperature effects and how axons maintain action potential propagation when temperature changes.