Hydra vulgaris shows stable responses to thermal stimulation despite large changes in the number of neurons
Tzouanas, Constantine N.; Kim, Soonyoung; Badhiwala, Krishna N.; Avants, Benjamin W.; Robinson, Jacob T.
Many animals that lose neural tissue to injury or disease can maintain behavioral repertoires by regenerating new neurons or reorganizing existing neural circuits. However, most neuroscience small model organisms lack this high degree of neural plasticity. We show that Hydra vulgaris can maintain stable sensory-motor behaviors despite 2-fold changes in neuron count, due to naturally occurring size variation or surgical resection. Specifically, we find that both behavioral and neural responses to rapid temperature changes are maintained following these perturbations. We further describe possible mechanisms for the observed neural activity and argue that Hydra's radial symmetry may allow it to maintain stable behaviors when changes in the numbers of neurons do not selectively eliminate any specific neuronal cell type. These results suggest that Hydra provides a powerful model for studying how animals maintain stable sensory-motor responses within dynamic neural circuits and may lead to the development of general principles for injury-tolerant neural architectures.