Study Says, Flies Make Flexible Mental Maps of the World for Navigation

Study Says, Flies Make Flexible Mental Maps of the World for Navigation

In a circular area, a fruit fly navigates a virtual landscape illuminated by black and blue lights. The fly is tethered in place, in a position to flap its wings however not transfer its head. Images on the wall rotate to provide the illusion of movement.

That is no insect carnival trip, although. It is a setup that researchers on the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus are utilizing to review how fruit flies get their bearings and construct mental maps of the world.

Now, two research carried out independently at Janelia, and Harvard Medical School presents how a fly’s neural compass makes use of visual cues to refine the insect’s sense of orientation. Flies’ mental maps are surprisingly malleable, recommend each research, published November 20, 2019, within the journal Nature.

Scientists can really rewrite the insects’ sense of direction by tinkering with their neural compass. And with only a few items of visible data, flies can construct a brand new map of their surroundings. The findings give new perception into how brains can construct a secure map of a scene whereas additionally remaining versatile enough to adapt to new situations, says Sung Soo Kim, a neuroscientist on the University of California, Santa Barbara, who led the research at Janelia. The work additionally has implications for a way different animals navigate within the wild, provides Fisher, from insects like ants and dung beetles to mammals like mice—and perhaps even people.

Navigation includes a sort of studying that hasn’t been extensively studied on the circuit stage, Harvard’s Wilson says. It is totally different from instructing animals that the sound of a bell, for example, brings some form of reward. As an alternative, the fly explores an environment and learns by itself as it goes.