Energy consumption and cooperation for optimal sensing

Vudtiwat Ngampruetikorn*, David J. Schwab, Greg J. Stephens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The reliable detection of environmental molecules in the presence of noise is an important cellular function, yet the underlying computational mechanisms are not well understood. We introduce a model of two interacting sensors which allows for the principled exploration of signal statistics, cooperation strategies and the role of energy consumption in optimal sensing, quantified through the mutual information between the signal and the sensors. Here we report that in general the optimal sensing strategy depends both on the noise level and the statistics of the signals. For joint, correlated signals, energy consuming (nonequilibrium), asymmetric couplings result in maximum information gain in the low-noise, high-signal-correlation limit. Surprisingly we also find that energy consumption is not always required for optimal sensing. We generalise our model to incorporate time integration of the sensor state by a population of readout molecules, and demonstrate that sensor interaction and energy consumption remain important for optimal sensing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number975
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2020


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