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:10/29/2015)... 2015 Daon, a global leader in mobile ... a new version of its IdentityX Platform , ... America have already installed IdentityX v4.0 and ... FIDO UAF certified server component as an ... FIDO features. These customers include some of the largest ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... 2015 In the present market scenario, security ... various industry verticals such as banking, healthcare, defense, electronic ... demand for secure & simplified access control and growing ... hacking of bank accounts, misuse of users, , and ... PC,s, laptops, and smartphones are expected to provide potential ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... 2015  Delta ID Inc., a company focused on ... PC devices, announced its ActiveIRIS® technology powers the iris ... launched by NTT DOCOMO, INC in Japan ... smartphone to include iris recognition technology, after a very ... in May 2015, world,s first smartphone to have this ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... N.C. , Nov. 24, 2015  Clintrax Global, Inc., a ... North Carolina , today announced that the company has set ... represented a 391% quarter on quarter growth posted for Q3 of ... and Mexico , with the establishment ... in December 2015. --> United Kingdom ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... This fall, global software solutions leader ... five states to develop and pitch their BIG ideas to improve health and wellness ... competing for votes to win the title of SAP's Teen Innovator, an all-expenses paid ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , November 24, 2015 SHPG ) ... participate in the Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare Conference ... December 1, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). ... Chief Financial Officer, will participate in the Piper Jaffray 27 th ... , NY on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. EST ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015  Tikcro Technologies Ltd. (OTCQB: TIKRF) today ... December 29, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. Israel time, ... Tower, 98 Yigal Allon Street, 36 th Floor, Tel ... Eric Paneth and Izhak Tamir to the Board ... Skaliter as external directors; , approval of an amendment to certain ...
Breaking Biology Technology: