Understanding mechanisms underlying the neural processes by flyception
Dr.Takeo Katsuki, an assistant project scientist at the Kavli Institute at the University of California, San Diego, Dr. Dhruv Grover, assistant project scientist, and Dr. Ralph J. Greenspan, in whose lab they all work, have developed a project to further investigate neural processes in flies. There are deep parallels between flies, vertebrates and even humans in mechanisms underlying the neural processes.
Initially working on the brain of a fruit fly, they intend to study behaviours like seeking food, fighting and mating. Watching a fly’s brain is problematic, but a suitable method has been determined that doesn’t require the fly to be tethered or immobilised as has previously been the case. Fruit flies won’t engage in courtship if tethered, so their procedure will allow the study of behaviours where the flies are required to be free:
- Use genetically engineered fly brains
- Use fluorescent chemicals to indicate active neurons
- Activate the fluorescent chemicals with lasers such as the gem 473
- Insert a tiny glass ‘window’ into the head of the fly and monitor the results through three cameras
Creating the ‘window’ requires a lot of dexterity which Dr. Katsuki has done, and is now known to colleagues as the ‘fly surgeon’. This is a key part to his newly developed system for tracking and imaging the fly as it moves. The flies recover well from the surgery, however, the recovery time is dependent on the experiment. For instance, for studying sensory responses such as odours, recovery time is on the order of 1-2 hours. For higher-order social behaviors such as fly courtship, males needed 1-2 days to recover and successfully display the courtship ritual
Having published results to show the success of the study in a recent paper, “Flyception: imaging brain activity in freely walking fruit flies”, more detailed research will occur to establish further understanding on the workings of a fly’s brain.