<p>A conventional understanding of perception assigns sensory organs the role of capturing the environment. Better sensors result in more accurate encoding of stimuli, allowing for cognitive processing downstream. Here we show that plasticity in sensory neurons mediates a behavioral switch in C. elegans between attraction to NaCl in naïve animals and avoidance of NaCl in preconditioned animals, called gustatory plasticity. Ca<sup>2+</sup> imaging in ASE and ASH NaCl sensing neurons reveals multiple cell-autonomous and distributed circuit adaptation mechanisms. A computational model quantitatively accounts for observed behaviors and reveals roles for sensory neurons in the control and modulation of motor behaviors, decision making and navigational strategy. Sensory adaptation dynamically alters the encoding of the environment. Rather than encoding the stimulus directly, therefore, we propose that these C. elegans sensors dynamically encode a context-dependent value of the stimulus. Our results demonstrate how adaptive sensory computation can directly control an animal’s behavioral state.</p>

doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-02561-9, hdl.handle.net/1765/136604
Communications Biology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam