Assistant Professor Viktor Gruev, in collaboration with three other universities, has received a grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) of $3.5M total over four years, titled "Re-engineering the stomatopod eye, nature's most comprehensive visual sensor."
The collaborators of the grant are University of Maryland, Queensland University in Brisbane, Australia, and University of Bristol in the UK.
Stomatopod (mantis shrimp) vision is both unique among animals and extraordinarily complex at the receptor level, comprising a total of 20 different photoreceptor types or functional input channels. 12 channels for color (including several in the UV, the whole system sampling from 300-720nm), 6 for linear polarization (4 sampling at 0°, 90°,45° and 135°) with peak spectral sensitivity close to 500nm and 2 in the UV sampling at 0° and 90°, with peak spectral sensitivity close to 350nm) and (in some species), 2 for circular polarization (Left and Right-handed), also with peak spectral sensitivity close to 500nm. Why do stomatopods sample the light that is available to them in such great detail?
This research project builds on our previous work in this system and with a combination of our current state of knowledge and fresh intellectual and methodological input to the project, aims to explain the complexity of the system for the first time. Stomatopods brains are small and are unlikely to deal in multi-dimensional data sets but, in common with most invertebrates, more likely send a set of simple ‘command messages’ to the brain from the eye and outer visual system neuropils. The mechanisms that function to reduce and analyse the complexity of 20 data streams make up an important component of the research we propose here. Added leverage to approach both receptor function and data streaming / filtering comes from new collaborations that can mimic or re-engineer the stomatopod eye optoelectronically. By sharing coding principles between disciplines (engineering and biology), and through continued behavioural, anatomical, molecular and physiological investigations, we aim to decode the inner principles of stomatopod vision as well as provide spin-offs to inform more efficient and smart sensor design.
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