It so happens that our contemporary neuroscience has progressed to the level where it can read an ordinary fruit fly’s mind.
Understanding the human brain completely will be a cinch one fine day in the future. Yet, the mapping of a fruit fly’s mind is possible as the current state of affairs exists. The sparking of neurons in the tiny brain of the fruit fly can be predicted beforehand.
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When it is about to perform an action for example, the future behavior and signals in the nervous system can be foreseen via certain technological heuristics.
While the mind of a teensy weensy fruit fly is far less complex than that of a human being, progress starts from the simple and proceeds to the more complicated. From the invention of the wheel all the way to space travel, we sure have come a long way.
The fruit fly had a total of three of its sensory systems tagged with fluorescent molecules of different hues. The neuronal systems showed signals clearly that were felt hours before an action were carried out by the fruit fly.
At the synaptic connections all the neuronal communication takes place on a regular basis. Using the fluorescent tagging methodology, synapses could be identified that play a crucial role in future behavior. Since every action is mediated by certain instinctual responses in the brain of the fruit fly, this holds important lessons in neuroscience for mankind.
Everything from the avoidance of pain and heat to the seeking of pleasure is mediated by electrical synaptic stimuli in the brain of the fruit fly. The fluorescent tags remain active long after the event thereby leaving proof which can be examined later on by neuroscientists.
Most of the analysis occurs at the microscopic level so it is a delicate and painstaking process. The brain engages in computation and the complexity of these decisions and choices it makes at every turn of its existence ensure its survival on the mundane level.
By examining the fluorescent tags, scientists could tell the condition of the fruit fly in a jiffy. The differences in the brain of the fruit fly when it smelled a banana and when it sniffed a jasmine flower could be told apart too thanks to this technique.
More complex behaviors could not be predicted so easily though. Their decoding will have to wait for future times when our human technology will have reached even more magical levels of wonderment.
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The study published today in the journal Nature Communications.