Prof. Nemenman reveals limits on precision of dynamic chemical sensing by biological cells.
Living systems sense chemicals in their environment when the latter bind to their surface receptors. Such binding is subject to the shot noise, which limits the sensing precision. How precise is such sensing? This storied question was asked for the first time in the 1970s, under an assumption that the concentrations remain stationary. Now, Thiery Mora (ENS, Paris) and Ilya Nemenman (Emory) have solved this problem for temporally varying concentration profiles using methods of stochastic field theory.