Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Standard fly brain sized up

13.02.2002


Average insect brain should help spot defects and their causes.


A creature of little brain, the fruit fly is popular with geneticists



Two hair’s breadths long and five across - that’s the average capacity of a fly’s brain, German researchers have calculated. They hope to set a benchmark for crania by which oddballs can be judged.

Although it is a creature of little brain, the fruit fly (Drosophila) is popular with geneticists. Researchers often study flies that lack a particular gene, looking for flaws that might hint at the gene’s function in the body.


But you can’t spot a faulty brain until you have a reference. So Martin Heisenberg, of the University of Wurzburg in Germany, and his colleagues have measured up a fly ’standard’ brain1.

Drosophila crania are pretty uniform, they found - with no obvious masterminds or dunces. The team dissected 120 brains and sized them up using a three-dimensional microscope. Using specially designed software, they aligned the images and drew up average dimensions.

"It’s a good idea," says Nicholas Strausfeld of the University of Arizona, who runs the web atlas Flybrain. Knowing the average shape and size means that flies with subtle brain defects can be picked out. In future, thousands of insects with genetic mutations could be screened. Learning and memory are particularly hot topics, in which such comparisons could prove useful, says Strausfeld.

Different strain’s brains reflect their lifestyles, the team has already found. One line, bred in jars, proves the ’use it or lose it’ adage. Years of cramped conditions has shrunk the brain region that controls flight and expanded the one that governs walking. And with a carefully controlled sex life, the lobe that sniffs out mates has also fallen into decline.

Heisenberg hopes that fly researchers will adopt his ’standard’ brain to collate information on gene activity. Around two-thirds of a fly’s genes operate in the brain - each one at a different time and place. If mapped onto a template, these could be compiled into a central database that would enable labs to compare their results. "He’s got to persuade the community," points out Strausfeld, before the standard can be adopted.

Model human

Efforts to gauge the average human brain are taking a similar tack, says John Mazziotta of the University of California, Los Angeles, who heads the International Consortium for Brain Mapping.

Using magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI) pictures collected from nearly 7,000 people, the team hopes to define a human reference brain. This could be compared to patients with Alzheimer’s disease or stroke to pinpoint brain regions that are affected. The human standard is set to be completed by September 2003.

"We’d like to have such a reference brain," says Robert Brandt of the Free University of Berlin, who is compiling an equivalent for bees.

References

  1. Rein, K. The Drosophila Standard Brain. Current Biology, 12, 227 - 231, (2002).


HELEN PEARSON | © Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/020211/020211-4.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel 'repair system' discovered in algae may yield new tools for biotechnology
29.07.2016 | Boyce Thompson Institute

nachricht Molecular troublemakers instead of antibiotics?
29.07.2016 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Self-assembling nano inks form conductive and transparent grids during imprint

Transparent electronics devices are present in today’s thin film displays, solar cells, and touchscreens. The future will bring flexible versions of such devices. Their production requires printable materials that are transparent and remain highly conductive even when deformed. Researchers at INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials have combined a new self-assembling nano ink with an imprint process to create flexible conductive grids with a resolution below one micrometer.

To print the grids, an ink of gold nanowires is applied to a substrate. A structured stamp is pressed on the substrate and forces the ink into a pattern. “The...

Im Focus: The Glowing Brain

A new Fraunhofer MEVIS method conveys medical interrelationships quickly and intuitively with innovative visualization technology

On the monitor, a brain spins slowly and can be examined from every angle. Suddenly, some sections start glowing, first on the side and then the entire back of...

Im Focus: Newly discovered material property may lead to high temp superconductivity

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.

While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.

Im Focus: Mapping electromagnetic waveforms

Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.

Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...

Im Focus: Continental tug-of-war - until the rope snaps

Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases

Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2016: 7th Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

29.07.2016 | Event News

GROWING IN CITIES - Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Gardening

15.07.2016 | Event News

SIGGRAPH2016 Computer Graphics Interactive Techniques, 24-28 July, Anaheim, California

15.07.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Vortex laser offers hope for Moore's Law

29.07.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Novel 'repair system' discovered in algae may yield new tools for biotechnology

29.07.2016 | Life Sciences

Clash of Realities 2016: 7th Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

29.07.2016 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>