Navigation Links
Do fruit flies have free will?

Free will and true spontaneity exist ?in fruit flies. This is what scientists report in a groundbreaking study in the May 16, 2007 issue of the open-access journal PLoS ONE.

"Animals and especially insects are usually seen as complex robots which only respond to external stimuli," says senior author Björn Brembs from the Free University Berlin. They are assumed to be input-output devices. "When scientists observe animals responding differently even to the same external stimuli, they attribute this variability to random errors in a complex brain." Using a combination of automated behavior recording and sophisticated mathematical analyses, the international team of researchers showed for the first time that such variability cannot be due to simple random events but is generated spontaneously and non-randomly by the brain. These results caught computer scientist and lead author Alexander Maye from the University of Hamburg by surprise: "I would have never guessed that simple flies who otherwise keep bouncing off the same window have the capacity for nonrandom spontaneity if given the chance."

The researchers tethered fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) in completely uniform white surroundings and recorded their turning behavior. In this setup, the flies do not receive any visual cues from the environment and since they are fixed in space, their turning attempts have no effect. Thus lacking any input, their behavior should resemble random noise, similar to a radio tuned between stations. However, the analysis showed that the temporal structure of fly behavior is very different from random noise. The researchers then tested a plethora of increasingly complex random computer models, all of which failed to adequately model fly behavior.

Only after the team analyzed the fly behavior with methods developed by co-authors George Sugihara and Chih-hao Hsieh from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego did they realize the origin of t he fly's peculiar spontaneity. "We found that there must be an evolved function in the fly brain which leads to spontaneous variations in fly behavior" Sugihara said. "The results of our analysis indicate a mechanism which might be common to many other animals and could form the biological foundation for what we experience as free will".

Our subjective notion of "Free Will" is an oxymoron: the term 'will' would not apply if our actions were completely random and it would not be 'free' if they were entirely determined. So if there is free will, it must be somewhere between chance and necessity - which is exactly where fly behavior comes to lie. "The question of whether or not we have free will appears to be posed the wrong way," says Brembs. "Instead, if we ask 'how close to free will are we"' one finds that this is precisely where humans and animals differ".

The next step will be to use genetics to localize and understand the brain circuits responsible for the spontaneous behavior. This step could lead directly to the development of robots with the capacity for spontaneous nonrandom behavior and may help combating disorders leading to compromised spontaneous behavioral variability in humans such as depression, schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder.

The research will appear in the May 16, 2007 issue of the open-access journal PLoS ONE.


Source:Public Library of Science

Related biology news :

1. Master gene controls healing of skin in fruit flies and mammals
2. UI researcher studies deafness in fruit flies, humans
3. Gap-climbing fruit flies reveal components of goal-driven behaviors
4. Hormones and growth: The control of body size and developmental growth rate in fruit flies
5. Aloe vera coating may prolong freshness, safety of fruits and vegetables
6. Hanging baskets of sex and death help fruit growers
7. Researchers find gland that tells fruit flies when to stop growing
8. Past experience of pheromones induces dominant courtship behavior in fruit flies
9. A resetting signal keeps circadian rhythm on track in Drosophila fruit flies
10. Drunken elephants: The marula fruit myth
11. UCSD study finds anthrax toxins also harmful to fruit flies
Post Your Comments:

(Date:3/31/2016)... R.I. , March 31, 2016  Genomics firm ... of founding CEO, Barrett Bready , M.D., who ... members of the original technical leadership team, including Chief ... President of Product Development, Steve Nurnberg and Vice President ... returned to the company. Dr. Bready served ...
(Date:3/23/2016)... 2016 Einzigartige ... und Stimmerkennung mit Passwörtern     ... MESG ), ein führender Anbieter digitaler Kommunikationsdienste, ... SpeechPro zusammenarbeitet, um erstmals dessen Biometrietechnologie einzusetzen. ... Möglichkeit angeboten, im Rahmen mobiler Apps neben ...
(Date:3/22/2016)... Ontario , PROVO and ... Newborn Screening Ontario (NSO), which operates the ... for molecular testing, and Tute Genomics and UNIConnect, ... management technology respectively, today announced the launch of a ... next-generation sequencing (NGS) testing panel. NSO ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016  Blueprint Bio, a ... discoveries to the medical community, has closed its Series ... Matthew Nunez . "We have received a ... the capital we need to meet our current goals," ... provide us the runway to complete validation on the ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... On Wednesday, June 22, 2016, the ... the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 0.27% lower to finish ... 0.17%. has initiated coverage on the following equities: Infinity ... NKTR ), Aralez Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ... ). Learn more about these stocks by accessing their free ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Prairie, WI (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 ... ... consultancy focused on quality, regulatory and technical consulting, provides a free webinar ... is presented on July 13, 2016 at 12pm CT at no charge. , ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016  Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN ) today ... life sciences incubator to accelerate the development of ... space at QB3@953 was created to help high-potential life ... many early stage organizations - access to laboratory infrastructure. ... launched two "Amgen Golden Ticket" awards, providing each winner ...
Breaking Biology Technology: