"After 15 minutes, they revert back to normal. You get excited, but you can't stay excited forever, so there is a mechanism to shut it down," he said.
His work also suggests the neuropeptides, or brain chemicals acting as signaling molecules triggering impulsive eating, are consistent between flies and humans. Neurons receive and convert stimuli into thoughts that are then relayed to the downstream mechanism telling the animals to act. These signaling molecules are required for this impulse, suggesting the molecular details of these functions are evolutionarily tied between flies and humans.
"There are hyper-rewarding cues that humans and flies have evolved to perceive, and they connect this perception with behavior performance," Shen said. "As long as this is activated, the animal will eat food. In this way, the brain is stupid: It does not know how it gets activated. In this case, the fly says 'I smell something, I want to do this.' This kind of connection has been established very early on, probably before the divergence of fly and human. That is why we both have it."
Impulsive and reward-driven behaviors are largely misunderstood, partially due to the complex systems at work in human brains. Fly larvae nervous systems, in terms of scheme and organization, are very similar to adult flies and to mammals, but with fewer neurons and less complex wirings.
"A particular function in the brain of mammals may require a large cluster of neurons," he said. "In flies, it may be only one or four. They are simpler in number but not principle."
In the fly model, four neurons are responsible for relaying signals from the olfactory center to the brain to stimulate action. Each odor and receptor translates the response slightly differently. Human triggers are obviously more diverse, but Shen thinks the mechanism to appreciate the combination i
|Contact: Ping Shen|
University of Georgia