Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Understanding more about neurons and the behaviours that they influence

05 January 2021

Feeling Your Surroundings

Like many other insects, fruit flies rely on their antennas to interact with their surroundings. Contrary to popular belief, antennas are used for more than just smell; for example, they can also detect temperature, sounds, and movements. Recently, scientists set out to better understand this multi-functional appendage by studying Johnston’s organ (JO), a portion of the antennae that detects the mechanical forces that move it, like sound or wind. By tracing electrical signals sent from JO neurons as they responded to different mechanical stimuli, the team identified distinct sub-populations of JO neurons that each are activated by specific vibrations, project their electrical signals to particular brain zones, and can trigger unique behaviours like wing flapping. The resulting map, shown here with colours representing projections from different JO neuron sub-populations, tells us a bit more about how the brain processes and makes sense of the various stimuli that animals encounter day-to-day.

Written by Gaëlle Coullon

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