Fruit Flies Play Video Games?
According to a new study, brain research dealing with attention in humans and in animals needs to focus on how different areas of the brain communicate with each other and not just on one area at a time.
It’s been demonstrated that animals such as elephants, dolphins and great apes are aware of themselves. But fruit flies, often studied because of their genetic similarities to humans, were not thought to have enough brain power to have self-awareness.
“It’s really interesting that humans and flies share the ability to focus and have attention,” said Bruno van Swinderen, an associate professor at the University of Queensland. “The difference is that we have around 100 billion neurons, and they only have 100,000 to do pretty much the same. They focus on one thing at a time and select the best course of action.”
In the study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers leashed fruit flies on an air-supported ball in front of a rudimentary video game and recorded multiple parts of their brain at the same time. Some flies were given the chance to control the game themselves and some had a video of the game played for them.
“We found that when the fly is in control, there is an increase in communication between brain regions, compared to when they are just responding to the very same visual stimuli replayed to them,” van Swinderen said in the release. “There were actually some star performers that immediately understood whether they were in control or not, and some never seemed to know the difference,” van Swinderen said. “Across our research, there is always individuality between all of the animals. They all behave differently.”