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Thermodynamic costs of information processing in sensory adaptation



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Sartori, Pablo and Granger, Leo and Chiu Fan, Lee and Horowitz, Jordan M. (2014) Thermodynamic costs of information processing in sensory adaptation. Plos computational biology, 10 (12). ISSN 1553-734X

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003974


Biological sensory systems react to changes in their surroundings. They are characterized by fast response and slow adaptation to varying environmental cues. Insofar as sensory adaptive systems map environmental changes to changes of their internal degrees of freedom, they can be regarded as computational devices manipulating information. Landauer established that information is ultimately physical, and its manipulation subject to the entropic and energetic bounds of thermodynamics. Thus the fundamental costs of biological sensory adaptation can be elucidated by tracking how the information the system has about its environment is altered. These bounds are particularly relevant for small organisms, which unlike everyday computers, operate at very low energies. In this paper, we establish a general framework for the thermodynamics of information processing in sensing. With it, we quantify how during sensory adaptation information about the past is erased, while information about the present is gathered. This process produces entropy larger than the amount of old information erased and has an energetic cost bounded by the amount of new information written to memory. We apply these principles to the E. coli’s chemotaxis pathway during binary ligand concentration changes. In this regime, we quantify the amount of information stored by each methyl group and show that receptors consume energy in the range of the information-theoretic minimum. Our work provides a basis for further inquiries into more complex phenomena, such as gradient sensing and frequency response.

Item Type:Article
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© Public Library of Science.
We are grateful to Y. Tu, D. Zwicker, R. Ma, R.G. Endres, G. Aquino, G. de Palo and S. Pigolotti for comments on this manuscript, and P. Mehta for helpful discussions.

Subjects:Sciences > Physics > Nuclear physics
ID Code:29188
Deposited On:13 Mar 2015 10:26
Last Modified:10 Dec 2018 14:57

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