Yale University School of Medicine researchers have found a way to exercise a little mind control over fruit flies, making the flies jump, beat their wings, and fly on command by triggering genetic "remote controls" that the scientists designed and installed in the insects’ central nervous systems, according to a new report in the 8 April issue of the journal Cell.
Susana Lima and Gero Miesenböck hope that the remote control system will provide a valuable way to study how nerve-cell activity and connections are related to specific behaviors, from simple movements to more complex behaviors like learning, aggression, and even abstract thought.
The ability to control specific groups of neurons without implanting electrodes in the brain or using similarly invasive techniques "would represent a significant step in moving neuroscience from passive observation…to active and predictive manipulation of behavior," the Cell authors write. Miesenböck also says "one could use this method to restore neural signals that have been lost" due to injury or disease, such as in spinal cord trauma, although he notes that the possibility is "far-fetched" at the moment.
Heidi Hardman | EurekAlert!
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