Note to users. If you're seeing this message, it means that your browser cannot find this page's style/presentation instructions -- or possibly that you are using a browser that does not support current Web standards. Find out more about why this message is appearing, and what you can do to make your experience of our site the best it can be.

Subscribe

Logo for

Science 336 (6084): 1054-1057

Copyright © 2012 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Neural Correlates of a Magnetic Sense

Le-Qing Wu, and J. David Dickman*

Abstract: Many animals rely on Earth’s magnetic field for spatial orientation and navigation. However, how the brain receives and interprets magnetic field information is unknown. Support for the existence of magnetic receptors in the vertebrate retina, beak, nose, and inner ear has been proposed, and immediate gene expression markers have identified several brain regions activated by magnetic stimulation, but the central neural mechanisms underlying magnetoreception remain unknown. Here we describe neuronal responses in the pigeon’s brainstem that show how single cells encode magnetic field direction, intensity, and polarity; qualities that are necessary to derive an internal model representing directional heading and geosurface location. Our findings demonstrate that there is a neural substrate for a vertebrate magnetic sense.

Department of Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77024, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: dickman{at}bcm.edu


THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN CITED BY OTHER ARTICLES:
Odours stimulate neuronal activity in the dorsolateral area of the hippocampal formation during path integration.
P. E. Jorge, J. B. Phillips, A. Goncalves, P. A. M. Marques, and P. Nemec (2014)
Proc R Soc B 281, 20140025
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
A magnetic pulse does not affect homing pigeon navigation: a GPS tracking experiment.
R. Holland, C. Filannino, and A. Gagliardo (2013)
J. Exp. Biol. 216, 2192-2200
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Spontaneous magnetic orientation in larval Drosophila shares properties with learned magnetic compass responses in adult flies and mice.
M. S. Painter, D. H. Dommer, W. W. Altizer, R. Muheim, and J. B. Phillips (2013)
J. Exp. Biol. 216, 1307-1316
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
A strong magnetic pulse affects the precision of departure direction of naturally migrating adult but not juvenile birds.
R. A. Holland and B. Helm (2013)
J R Soc Interface 10, 20121047
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Magnetoreception in laboratory mice: sensitivity to extremely low-frequency fields exceeds 33 nT at 30 Hz.
F. S. Prato, D. Desjardins-Holmes, L. D. Keenliside, J. M. DeMoor, J. A. Robertson, and A. W. Thomas (2013)
J R Soc Interface 10, 20121046
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Magnetic characterization of isolated candidate vertebrate magnetoreceptor cells.
S. H. K. Eder, H. Cadiou, A. Muhamad, P. A. McNaughton, J. L. Kirschvink, and M. Winklhofer (2012)
PNAS 109, 12022-12027
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
An Avian Magnetometer.
M. Winklhofer (2012)
Science 336, 991-992
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »

To Advertise     Find Products


Science Signaling. ISSN 1937-9145 (online), 1945-0877 (print). Pre-2008: Science's STKE. ISSN 1525-8882