Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Pulling a Muscle

Understanding how the brain and muscles work together to control behaviour

29 August 2021

Pulling a Muscle

Untangling the connection between brain and behaviour is a complicated business. The tens of billions of nerve cells in a human brain have to work together to send signals to our muscles that generate a huge range of activities from basic things like breathing to finely controlled tasks such as writing. To keep things simple, researchers are studying the patterns of muscle activity in fruit flies as they transform from a pupa into an adult, going through a specific set of muscle movements. Using genetic engineering techniques to ‘light up’ muscles as they become active in different colours reveals distinctive patterns of muscle activation. To start with, individual muscles become active in small groups, which then become synchronised as the process progresses. By comparing these muscle activation patterns to brain cell activity, the scientists hope to shed new light on how the brain and muscles work together to control behaviour.

Written by Kat Arney

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