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Scientists at UMass Medical School identify neurons that control feeding behavior in Drosophila
Date:6/14/2013

rature. This, in turn, activated the corresponding neurons.

Under wild conditions, when a hungry fly comes in contact with food it ceases motion and executives eight basic motor functions resulting in the consumption of the food. When the temperature in the chamber was increased, Yoshihara and colleagues were able to isolate a single Drosophila line which exhibited these eight motor functions, even in the absence of food or other stimuli. Subsequent experiments revealed that the feeding mechanism initiated by activating the transgenes was being controlled by a single pair of neurons in the fly's brain. Furthermore, these feeding (Fdg) neurons were responsible for synthesizing cues about available food and hunger, and using them to start the feeding mechanism.

"Our results showed that these neurons become active in the presence of a food source for the fly, but the response was contingent on whether the animal was hungry," said Yoshihara. "This means that these neurons are integrating both internal and external stimuli in order to initiate a complex feeding behavior with multiple motor programs."

Yoshihara believes this discovery will provide researchers with a powerful new tool for isolating, analyzing and characterizing aspects of the brain's neural circuitry and studying how information is integrated in the brain. In the future, Yoshihara plans to use the Fdg-neurons to study the biological basis of classical or Pavlovian conditioning. Doing so, he hopes to uncover how memory integrates stimuli to illicit a conditioned behavior.


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Contact: Jim Fessenden
james.fessenden@umassmed.edu
508-856-2000
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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