Thursday, May 6, 2021

On Fruit Flies and the History of Brain Science

Researchers uncover brain mechanisms in fruit flies that may impact future learning
Jun 2020,

I was going to write something about the trifecta between much of the basis for modern neuro- and behavioral science and fruit flies and olfaction, but this researcher sums it up pretty well:
Paul Sabandal said olfactory conditioning in fruit flies has greatly contributed to overall understanding about the mechanisms underlying associative learning and memory. Historically, in fruit flies, dopamine is implicated in both punishment- and reward-based learning while octopamine is widely considered to be essential only for reward.

When he says "historically", he implicitly refers to the fact that fruit flies, along with the elegant roundworm C. elegans, are prime biological models for studying the brain and translating that information to humans.
via the University of Texas at El Paso: John Martin Sabandal et al, Concerted Actions of Octopamine and Dopamine Receptors Drive Olfactory Learning, The Journal of Neuroscience (2020). DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1756-19.2020

image credit: Ovary of a Fruit Fly, Dr. Yujun Chen, Nikon Small World 2020

Biology blurs line between sexes, behaviors
Aug 2020,

Never heard this one before:
Typically, C. elegans males prefer searching for mates over eating, in part because they can't smell food as well as females do. But if a male goes too long without eating, it will dial up its ability to detect food and acts more like a female. The new research shows that TRA-1 is necessary for this switch, and without it hungry males can't enhance their sense of smell and stay locked in the default, food-insensitive mate-searching mode.
via the University of Rochester Medical Center: Hannah N. Lawson et al, Dynamic, Non-binary Specification of Sexual State in the C. elegans Nervous System, Current Biology (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.07.007

Scientists may have found one path to a longer life
Jul 2020,

Aaaand now they're immortal. Just kidding but we're getting there:
Studying one of the most common laboratory models used in genetic research—the fruit fly Drosophila—John Tower, professor of biological sciences, and his team found that the drug mifepristone extends the lives of female flies that have mated.
via University of Southern California: Gary N Landis et al, Metabolic Signatures of Life Span Regulated by Mating, Sex Peptide and Mifepristone/RU486 in Female Drosophila melanogaster, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A (2020). DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glaa164

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