Date of Award


Degree Name

Biomedical Sciences


Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Dr. Mary-Louise Risher, co-chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Sasha Zill, co-chair

Third Advisor

Dr. Eric Blough

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Michael Norton

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Brandon Henderson


Posture and walking require support of the body weight, which is thought to be detected by sensory receptors in the legs. Specificity in sensory encoding occurs through the morphological properties of the sense organs (numerical distribution, receptor size) and their physiological response characteristics. These studies focus upon campaniform sensilla, receptors that detect forces as strains in the insect exoskeleton. To study the morphology of campaniform sensilla, the sites of mechanotransduction (cuticular caps) were imaged by light and confocal microscopy in four species (stick insects, cockroaches, blow flies and Drosophila). These data indicate that the gradient (range) of cap sizes may most closely correlate with the body weight. These studies support the idea that morphological properties of force-detecting sensory receptors in the legs may be tuned to reflect the body weight. Overall, this study indicates that the morphological properties of the sense organs are specifically tuned to provide information needed for postural stability and successful locomotion.




Insects – Nervous System – Research.

Rodents – Nervous System – Research.