Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


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

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:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

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: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>