PASADENA, Calif.Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have obtained the first recordings of brain-cell activity in an actively flying fruit fly.
The workby Michael Dickinson, the Esther M. and Abe M. Zarem Professor of Bioengineering, with postdoctoral scholars Gaby Maimon and Andrew Strawsuggests that at least part of the brain of the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) "is in a different and more sensitive state during flight than when the fly is quiescent," Dickinson says.
A paper describing the research appears February 14 in the advance online edition of Nature Neuroscience.
"Prior work on fruit flies has led to many important breakthroughs in biology. For example, the fact that genes reside on chromosomes and our understanding of how genes control development both emerged from experiments on fruit flies," Maimon says. "New research hopes to use these tiny insects to help determine how neurons give rise to complex behavior. This effort is helped by the fact that it is easy to manipulate the genes of fruit flies, but one problem remains: These insects are really, really tiny, which means it is very difficult to record from their brain during active behaviors such as flight."
"Researchers have recorded the neural-cell activity of fruit flies before, but only in restrained preparationsanimals that had been stuck or glued down," Dickinson explains. "Gaby was able to develop a preparation where the animal is tethered"its head clamped into place"but free to flap its wings." By slicing off a patch of the hard cuticle covering the brain, "we were able to target our electrodes onto genetically marked neurons," he says.
A puff of air was used to spur the flies into flapping their wings, while electrodes measured the activity of the marked neurons and high-speed digital cameras simultaneously recorded the flies' behavior.
In particular, the researchers focused on those neur
|Contact: Kathy Svitil|
California Institute of Technology