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 Amputees can learn to control a robotic arm with their minds
28.11.2017 | University of Chicago Medical Center

nachricht The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

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: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

PhoxTroT: Optical Interconnect Technologies Revolutionized Data Centers and HPC Systems

11.12.2017 | Information Technology

Large-scale battery storage system in field trial

11.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>