Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Reaching Out

Homing in on the precise nervous control of proboscis muscles in flies - how goal-directed movement is controlled

28 August 2020

Reaching Out

Our arms and hands allow us to reach out and interact with the world. These behaviours are controlled by our brain, but how exactly do our limbs and brain communicate with one another? Searching for answers, neuroscientists mapped the fruit fly’s proboscis, a part of their head used like a limb for goal-directed behaviours like reaching for food. Using different imaging techniques, they created a detailed anatomy of proboscis muscles and the handful of neurons that innervate each one. The team found that each muscle in this appendage is connected to the brain by one motor neuron type, shown here with differently coloured networks representing one neuron type’s dendrites. With this information, the team could control individual proboscis muscles by manipulating their corresponding motor neurons, revealing which neural circuits are needed to control reaching behaviour. In future, this model could shed further light on the brain networks behind goal-directed behaviours.

Written by Gaëlle Coullon

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