Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mind alteration device makes flies sing and dance

Date:
May 25, 2014
Source:
Research Institute of Molecular Pathology
Summary:
Scientists have developed a special device for the thermogenetic control of flies. This tool, called FlyMAD, enabled the scientists to target light or heat to specific body regions of flies in motion and to analyse the animals‘ brain cells. Compared to other techniques, FlyMAD allows highly improved temporal resolution. Using the new technology, scientists got new insight into the role of two neuronal cell types in courtship behavior of flies.

A male Drosophila raises a wing and ‘sings’ due to neuronal activation of song neurons. FlyMAD enables precisely aiming an infrared laser at a fly in which a warmth-sensitive ion channel was genetically introduced into previously identified neurons.
Credit: Dan Bath, JFRC, HHMI

In a joint effort with collaboration partners from the Vienna University of Technology and a lab in the USA, the team of Andrew Straw at the IMP developed a special device for the thermogenetic control of flies. This tool, called FlyMAD, enabled the scientists to target light or heat to specific body regions of flies in motion and to analyse the animals' brain cells. Compared to other techniques, FlyMAD allows highly improved temporal resolution. Using the new technology, Straw and his colleagues got new insight into the role of two neuronal cell types in courtship behavior of flies.

The fruit fly Drosophila Melanogaster represents an ideal experimental system to analyse circuit functions of brain cells (neurons). In the past, it was not possible to specifically control the activity of neurons in moving flies. Andrew Straw and his team have now overcome this barrier.

Rapid mind alteration in moving flies

Straw and his co-workers are interested in the mechanisms underlying cell circuits in the fly brain. Straw's group concentrates on the control of complex behaviors such as courtship. In order to better understand how different neuronal circuits work together, Straw and his team developed FlyMAD ("Fly Mind Altering Device"), an apparatus using a video camera to track the flies' motion in a box. FlyMAD allows simultaneous observation of several flies and targeted irradiation of specific body regions of these animals. By combining the sensitive methods of optogenetics and thermogenetics, the researchers were able to specifically alter neural pathways in the fly brain with FlyMAD.

The novel technology of thermogenetics uses genetically modified, temperature-sensitive flies. Upon irradiation with infrared light and the concomitant rise in temperature to 30 degrees Celsius, these animals change certain aspects of their behavior. This does not happen at a control temperature of 24 degrees Celsius. Compared to other commonly used methods, FlyMAD applies a highly improved temporal resolution. Infrared-induced activation or repression of specific neurons and the following change in the animals' behavior occur within the fraction of a second.

The application of visible light to certain genetically engineered flies can also induce alterations of their brain. FlyMAD thus represents an absolute novelty for fly research, as optogenetics has been restricted to mice so far.

New insight into courtship behavior of flies

Straw and his co-workers tested FlyMAD by analyzing already known reactions of genetically modified flies to light and heat. As this proof-of-principle showed that FlyMAD worked reliably -- for example by making the flies "moonwalk" -- the researchers went on to use their method to tackle new scientific questions. In a thermogenetic set up, they investigated a certain type of neurons that had been linked to the flies' courtship song in earlier experiments. Taking advantage of the better temporal resolution of FlyMAD, the scientists were able to characterize the role of two neuronal cell types in the brain in more detail. They could show that activity of one type of neurons correlated with a persistent state of courtship, whereas the other cell type was important for the action of "singing." In the experiment this became obvious when males tried to mate with a ball of wax, circled it and started vibrating their wings after stimulation with the laser beam.

FlyMAD allows combination of optogenetics and thermogenetics

In the future, Straw wants to combine the activation of flies both by light and by heat in one experiment -- that is feasible with FlyMAD. This would allow the activation or repression of different genetic elements in one fly. "FlyMAD offers the fantastic opportunity to address many of our questions. We could, for example, analyze how single neurons function in a cascade within the neuronal circuit," Straw emphasizes the potential of his work. Ultimately, new insight into the function of the fly brain can also be applied to the network of cells in the mammalian brain.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Research Institute of Molecular Pathology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Daniel E. Bath, John R. Stowers, Dorothea Hφrmann, Andreas Poehlmann, Barry J. Dickson and Andrew D. Straw. FlyMAD: Rapid thermogenetic control of neuronal activity in freely-walking Drosophila. Nature Methods, 2014 DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.2973

Cite This Page:

Research Institute of Molecular Pathology. "Mind alteration device makes flies sing and dance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140525154744.htm>.
Research Institute of Molecular Pathology. (2014, May 25). Mind alteration device makes flies sing and dance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140525154744.htm
Research Institute of Molecular Pathology. "Mind alteration device makes flies sing and dance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140525154744.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

How to Make Single Serving Smoothies: Howdini Hacks

How to Make Single Serving Smoothies: Howdini Hacks

Howdini (July 24, 2014) — Smoothies are a great way to get in lots of healthy ingredients, plus they taste great! Howdini has a trick for making the perfect single-size smoothie that will save you time on cleanup too! All you need is a blender and a mason jar. Video provided by Howdini
Powered by NewsLook.com
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

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