Harnessing Biological Noise in the Olfactory System
College of Science
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Biological systems are inherently noisy. In this literature based thesis we ask whether biological noise is relevant for function. We suggest that internal noise is an important component of biological systems and that systems have evolved to modulate the levels of this noise to suit function. We describe mechanisms by which biological systems reduce or increase the level of noise in a system. We then describe the benefits to the organism of modulating noise. Finally, we focus our attention on noise generated in sensory systems and search for general principles that might inform how noise plays a role in the functioning of an olfactory system. This research is motivated in part by a desire to learn whether noise plays a part in olfactory system functioning. Overall, this research has implications for revealing intricate details about olfaction that were not known before. These details could be necessary for a complete understanding of neurodegenerative diseases and insect olfaction. Ultimately, translational horizons such as developing solutions for modulating an insect's olfactory abilities as a mode of insect control are likely to be attainable, which could help prevent the spread of insect-borne pathogens as well as insect damage to agriculture.