Researchers from two different CIFAR programs collaborate to show fruit flies can do more than previously thought possible. Despite the simplicity of their visual system, fruit flies are able to reliably distinguish between individuals based on sight alone. This is a task that even humans who spend their whole lives studying Drosophila melanogaster struggle with. Researchers have now built a neural network that mimics the fruit fly's visual system and can distinguish and re-identify flies. This may allow the thousands of labs worldwide that use fruit flies as a model organism to do more longitudinal work, looking at how individual flies change over time.
The essence of the research, conducted at the University of Toronto, is centered around the question – 'how well can the fruit fly see?' And also a related question – 'do all fruit flies visualize the world in the same way?' This latter question arises because some researchers think there is evidence of individual recognition and the ability for visual learning in flies. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is a versatile model organism that has been used in biomedical research for over a century. To explore this, a research study was concocted applying machine learning.
Scientists in the US have developed a computer program called JAABA that uses machine learning to map groups of neurons responsible for the different behaviors observed in tiny fruit flies. The brain is a tangled mess of neurons that continues to mystify neurologists. Creating a detailed map allows scientists to learn the anatomy of the brain in the hopes that they can understand how behavior manifests neurologically. Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit flies, are a good place to start. The insects have a poppy seed-sized brain with 100,000 neurons compared to the 100 billion in human brains.
Scientists have learned about humans' needs for personal space from a surprising source - fruit flies. Little was known about the mechanisms that allow us to determine when someone is'too near' or'too far,' but researchers just discovered it all has to do with dopamine - the neurotransmitter that controls pleasure and reward. They say this could have important implications for understanding people who are autistic, or have schizophrenia or other conditions. Scientists have learned about humans' needs for personal space from a surprising source - fruit flies. Little was known about the mechanisms that allow us to determine when someone is'too near' or'too far,' but researchers just discovered it all has to do with dopamine The team found that levels of dopamine can change how much space fruit flies need from each other.
Male fruit flies seem to enjoy ejaculation as much as men do. Their "orgasms" seem to be satisfying enough to reduce their craving for other rewards such as alcohol. The experiment resembles the "orgasmatron", a fictional machine for giving people instant orgasms featured in the 1973 film Sleeper. Galit Shohat-Ophir of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel and her colleagues engineered male fruit flies so that they could make them ejaculate at will. First, they genetically engineered neurons in the fruit flies' abdomens so that they could be activated by exposure to red light.