Gilles Laurent awarded prestigious ERC Advanced Grant for research on cephalopod camouflage

April 11, 2024

Gilles Laurent, director at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, has been awarded a 2.5 million Euro European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant to study cephalopod camouflage. The grant will fund a five-year research project wich focuses on unraveling the neural processes behind this remarkable behavior.

Cephalopod camouflage is one of the most fascinating behaviors in the animal kingdom and is of great importance to neuroscience for several reasons. The ability of cephalopods to avoid detection by predators suggests that texture perception must follow similar principles in most species, otherwise camouflage would not be successful. Since cephalopods and vertebrates diverged from a primitive common ancestor more than 550 million years ago, these principles must be based on functional convergence.

The process of cephalopod camouflage is neurally controlled, i.e., it is driven by the brain, with motoneurons acting on a large number of specialized pigment cells called chromatophores based on visual information from the eyes. The behavior involves translating an image from the retina through a large central brain into a corresponding skin pattern and finally into a precise motor response. This process can provide insights into the neural processes underlying cephalopod camouflage.

To deepen our understanding of the process, Laurent's research project will validate the predictions derived from his group’s previous findings. The project will use molecular, ultrastructural, computational, physiological and behavioral approaches to unravel the mechanisms of camouflage control in cephalopods.

About the ERC

Established by the European Union in 2007, the ERC is Europe's leading funding agency for frontier research. It supports innovative researchers of all nationalities and ages to carry out pan-European projects. The ERC offers four main funding schemes - Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants. In addition, through its Proof of Concept Grant scheme, the ERC supports grantees in the transition from frontier research to the early stages of commercialization, facilitating the transformation of innovative ideas into tangible products and services.

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