Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fruit flies' response to wind offers new window to neural circuits

20.03.2009
David J. Anderson and colleagues at Caltech find what lies beneath unlearned behavioral response

Try this at home: If fruit flies are buzzing around your kitchen, switch on your hairdryer and aim it at the flies. A gentle stream of air will stop them in their tracks, putting them in prime position for swatting.

The reaction of fruit flies to wind was something that had intrigued biologist David J. Anderson for some time. When the flies sensed the wind, they went into a defensive, hunkering-down position until the feel of the wind ceased, then resumed flying around.

With an interest in animals' defensive behavior and its evolutionary ties to emotion, Anderson became interested in the neural connections underlying the flies' response to wind. In a study described in the March 12 issue of the journal Nature, Anderson and his team zeroed in on how the flies process the feel of the wind and respond by freezing in place. They found that that the flies' wind-sensitive neurons exist in the same sensory organ in the flies' antennae as the neurons that process the sound of the song of a potential mate.

The next challenge was determining how the same organ processed two distinct stimuli, leading to two distinct behavioral responses. Anderson and his team, including graduate student Suzuko Yorozu, were able to dissect the neural circuits that underlie this defensive behavior and see a different set of neurons "light up" in response to wind versus the sound of courtship song.

The team mounted a fly upside down under a very powerful two-photon microscope. Cutting a hole in the cuticle--the shell that covers the fly's brain--the team had a detailed view into the fly's brain. Having used sophisticated techniques to selectively visualize the activity of particular genes in the fly, the researchers could see when any neurons in the fly's brain were activated by a particular stimulus.

"So we positioned a loudspeaker in front of the fly, and we delivered courtship sound recordings and wind, and as we did that we could watch in real time the neurons that were lighting up in the brain," said Anderson. "And it was absolutely obvious that neurons in different regions of the brain were being activated by the sound or activated by the wind, and these regions were different, even if we applied the two stimuli simultaneously."

This kind of detailed understanding of the neurons involved in defensive behavior has potential application to treatment of mental illnesses in humans, though Anderson admits this is a long way off. But knowing more about neural circuits could provide the means to target medications to precisely where they are needed, as opposed to treating the brain globally and prompting many unpleasant side-effects.

"To be able to pinpoint the parts of the brain that process behavior responses, including emotional responses would be very useful," said Anderson. "So that someday we'll be able to hone in in a more laser-like manner and be able to have drugs that are targeted to specific circuits in the brain."

Maria C. Zacharias | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov
http://mr.caltech.edu/media/Press_Releases/PR13240.html

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung

nachricht Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>