Average insect brain should help spot defects and their causes.
A creature of little brain, the fruit fly is popular with geneticists
Two hairs breadths long and five across - thats the average capacity of a flys 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 genes function in the body.
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 Alzheimers disease or stroke to pinpoint brain regions that are affected. The human standard is set to be completed by September 2003.
"Wed like to have such a reference brain," says Robert Brandt of the Free University of Berlin, who is compiling an equivalent for bees.
HELEN PEARSON | © Nature News Service
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