Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers Show How The Brain Turns On Innate Behavior

Date:
July 28, 2006
Source:
University of California - Riverside
Summary:
A research team led by UC Riverside's Michael Adams, professor of cell biology and neuroscience and professor of entomology, has made a major leap forward in understanding how the brain programs innate behavior. The discovery could have future applications in engineering new behaviors in animals and intelligent robots. Using the common fruit fly as a model organism, the researchers found that the innate behavior is initiated by a "command" hormone that orchestrates activities in discrete groups of peptide neurons in the brain.

Image on the left shows a watercolor illustration of the fruit fly by Edith M. Wallace. Courtesy: Carnegie Institution. Image on the right shows several groups of peptide neurons (red, green colored neurons) in the fly brain that regulate innate behavior.
Credit: Image credit: Y-J. Kim, UCR

UCR researchers have made a major leap forward in understanding how the brain programs innate behavior. The discovery could have future applications in engineering new behaviors in animals and intelligent robots.

Innate or "instinctive" behaviors are inborn and do not require learning or prior experience to be performed. Examples include courtship and sexual behaviors, escape and defensive maneuvers, and aggression.

Using the common fruit fly as a model organism, the researchers found through laboratory experiments that the innate behavior is initiated by a "command" hormone that orchestrates activities in discrete groups of peptide neurons in the brain. Peptide neurons are brain cells that release small proteins to communicate with other brain cells and the body.

The researchers report that the command hormone, called ecdysis-triggering hormone or ETH, activates discrete groups of brain peptide neurons in a stepwise manner, making the fruit fly perform a well-defined sequence of behaviors. The researchers propose that similar mechanisms could account for innate behaviors in other animals and even humans.

Study results appear as the cover article in this week's issue of Current Biology.

"To our knowledge, we are the first to describe how a circulating hormone turns on sequential steps of an innate behavior by inducing programmed release of brain chemicals," said Young-Joon Kim, a postgraduate researcher in UCR's Department of Entomology working with Michael Adams, professor of cell biology and neuroscience and professor of entomology, and the first author of the paper. "It is well known that such behaviors -- for example, sexual behavior or those related to aggression, escape or defense -- are programmed in the brain, and all are laid down in the genome. We found that not only do steps involved in innate behavior match exactly with discrete activities of the neurons in the brain but also that specific groups of peptide neurons are activated at very precise times, leading to each successive step of the behavioral sequence."

In their experiments, which involved state of the art imaging techniques that helped the researchers see activated neurons light up in the fruit fly brain, the researchers specifically focused on arthropods, such as insects. Insects pass through multiple developmental stages during their life history. Each transition requires molting, a process in which a new exoskeleton (or cuticle) is produced and the old is shed. Insects shed the old cuticle by performing an innate behavior consisting of three distinct steps lasting about 100 minutes in total.

First, the researchers described the ecdysis sequence, an innate behavior that insects perform to escape their old cuticle, and showed that the insect initiates behavior shortly after appearance of ETH in the blood. The researchers then demonstrated that injection of the hormone into an animal generates the same behavior. To investigate mechanisms underlying this hormone-induced behavior, they used real-time imaging techniques to reveal activities in discrete sets of peptide neurons at very precise times, which corresponded to each successive step of the behavioral sequence. The researchers confirmed the results by showing that behavioral steps disappear or are altered upon killing certain groups of brain neurons with genetic tools.

"Our results apply not only to insects; they also may provide insights into how, in general, the mammalian brain programs behavior, and how it and the body schedule events," said Adams, who led the research team. "By understanding how innate behavior is wired in the brain, it becomes possible to manipulate behavior -- change its order, delay it or even eliminate it altogether -- all of which opens up ethical questions as to whether scientists should, or would want to, engineer behavior in this way in the future."

The fruit fly is a powerful tool and a classic laboratory model for understanding human diseases and genetics because it shares many genes and biochemical pathways with humans.

Besides Kim and Adams, UCR's Dusan Zitnan, C. Giovanni Galizia and Kook-Ho Cho collaborated on the study which was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship to Kim.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Riverside. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Riverside. "Researchers Show How The Brain Turns On Innate Behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 July 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060728103827.htm>.
University of California - Riverside. (2006, July 28). Researchers Show How The Brain Turns On Innate Behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060728103827.htm
University of California - Riverside. "Researchers Show How The Brain Turns On Innate Behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060728103827.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins