Scientists use laser-powered mind control to make flies flirt
Neurons treated with a heat-activated protein were activated with infrared lasers to trigger courtship behaviour
Monday 03 March 2014
Neuroscientists have successfully controlled a fly’s behaviour with thermogenetics – a new technique that uses lasers to remotely activate brain neurons.
Using the whimsically named Fly Mind-Altering Device (also known as FlyMAD), researchers were able to trigger complex courtship behaviour in a target fly, essentially causing the insect to ‘fall in love’ with a ball of wax.
The research, led by Barry Dickson of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia, is similar to optogenetics; a method that activates neurons using light and that has previously been used to control behaviour in mice.
However, while optogenetics require fibre-optic cables to be embedded into mice skulls to activate the genetically-altered neurons, thermogenetics achieves the same effect by using infrared lasers to deliver the ‘instructions’ directly to the fly’s brain.
Scientists have previously influenced fly behaviour by adding a heat-activated protein called TRPA1 to neurons associated with certain actions. When flies modified in this way are placed in a hot box the targeted neurons activate and trigger certain behaviours.
FlyMAD, however, uses a video camera to track the fly as it moves around a box before directing an infrared laser at the insect and activating the parts of its neural circuit that control courtship.
A screenshot showing a fly controlled by FlyMAD approaching a ball of wax.
In a video from Nature, the subject fly can be seen attempting to mate with a ball of wax, circling and ‘singing’ to it by vibrating its wings. This courtship behaviour continued for 15 minutes after the laser had been shut off “suggesting that the heat had triggered a lasting, complex behavioural state”.
Another test conducted by the neuroscientists was able to instantly make flies walk backwards by activating TRPA1 that had been added to neurons associated with muscular coordination.
The paper written by Dickson and his team is currently awaiting peer review, although some neuroscientists have already welcomed thermogenetics as easier to use than current optogenetic techniques.
Speaking to Nature, Dickson said that he would like to combine the TRPA1 control method with an alternative technique that uses a different light-activated protein known as channelrhodopsin. Scientists say they could then activate different neural circuits at the same time in order to “see which one wins”.
- 2 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 3 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 4 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
- 5 'Hello mum, this is going to be hard for you to read ...'
Sally Farmiloe dead: Howards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, dies aged 60
Russell Brand accuses FOX News anchor Sean Hannity of terrorism after aggressive Israel-Gaza debate
Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people
Sabina Altynbekova, the girl branded 'too good looking' for volleyball, says social media obsession with her is a 'bit much'
Justin Bieber posts Instagram photo of Orlando Bloom crying after Ibiza fight 'over Miranda Kerr'
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
- < Previous
- Next >
£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...
£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...