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What singing fruit flies can tell us about quick decisions
Date:3/20/2014

ive females slowed down in response to song, while unreceptive females sped up. Independent of the female's behavior, however, both successful and unsuccessful males had a similar ability to adapt their song to a female's actions, Murthy said.

Importantly, the researchers found that the neural circuits that guide the male's movement also determine the pattern the composition of pulses versus sines of his song. One might assume that the male's visual neural circuits are at play because his song is a response to her movement, Murthy said. But when she and her colleagues prompted a male to sing in the absence of a female, his song pattern matched his motion. This arrangement could be for the sake of simplicity, she said. Instead of the fly's many sensory circuits such as vision linking to the circuits for movement and singing, singing is determined solely by locomotion. In other words, Murthy said, the fly's dance determines his song.

"These fly songs have a lot of variability. Each time the male produces a bout of song to a female, it's slightly different from the one he produced before," Murthy said. "He measures his distance to the female fly and he uses information about her speed, which translates into his speed because he's following her and chasing her. He's constantly integrating those two pieces of information to determine exactly how to pattern his song.

"That kind of variability makes flies an attractive model to try to understand how the sensory environment influences behavior," Murthy said.

In humans, Samuel said, the influence of our surroundings on our behavior is so vast that we couldn't be completely conscious of it. Perhaps, like the fly, human behavior might be much more predictable than it seems if scientists could inventory all of the determinants of our actions with the same thoroughness that Murthy and her co-authors achieved for fruit flies.

"These researchers were able to show that in fact what is
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Contact: Morgan Kelly
mgnkelly@princeton.edu
609-258-5729
Princeton University
Source:Eurekalert  

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