This section through the brain of a fruit fly, Drosophila, shows neurons [nerve cells] firing into action in preparation for flight. Yet something odd is going on – the neurons lit up at the centre of the brain (stained in green with their nuclei stained red) are actually sending messages to the optic lobes (ball-shaped areas on the left and right) where vision is controlled. These special neurons (known as octopamine neurons) boost the fly’s sight prior to take-off, aiding its panoramic view of the terrain whilst soaring high above the ground. Each neuron is 5,000 times thinner than an electrical wire and transmits these signals in a fraction of a second. Speedy ‘re-wiring’ of neurons occurs inside mammalian brains, too – the visual senses of the mouse brain are heightened during movement, a handy trick when you’re on the hunt for a meal, or trying to avoid becoming one.
Written by John Ankers
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.