In the exteroceptive system (A), the local-environment, E, is regulated in response to the global environment, G. In the interoceptive system (B), E is regulated in response to essential-variables, I. (Egbert and Perez-Mercader)

If a bacterium genetically mutates to metabolize a new resource, how does it change its feeding behavior in time for the mutation to succeed? How does it adapt its new adaptation?

A new paper by SFI External Professor Juan Pérez-Mercader and colleague Matthew Egbert addresses the puzzle of how organisms regulate and respond to their own adaptations. 

The researchers present two mechanisms for how organisms might adjust to events such as genetic mutation, infection by parasites, and other radical changes to the way they survive their environments. The researchers use a computational model to demonstrate that “interoceptive” mechanisms, which regulate according to cues within the organism, outperform “exteroceptive” mechanisms that take their cues from the environment alone. 

The work could influence theories of how early life evolved, and “could prove useful in the effort to create more robust synthetic life-forms.”

Read the paper in Nature Scientific Reports (January 8, 2016)