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Scientists have found how flies navigate in space

Have you ever thought about howAre insects oriented in the surrounding space? Not that this knowledge is important for our existence, but it allows you to learn more about the neurophysiology of lower life forms, which in the future will improve the systems of artificial intelligence and navigation systems of the same self-controlled robots and drones. So, researchers from Howard Hughes Medical University were able to identify how Drosophila flies orient themselves. And it turned out to be very unusual.

Turns out flies have a pretty interesting nervous system

How flies find a way

As reported on the university’s website, scientistswere able to find out that insects make up a kind of “mental map of space”, which allows them to specify the direction of movement as new signals arrive. Flies use visual cues to improve their “environment maps”.

Actually, the experiment itself. The fly is fixed directly under the microscope. On the opposite side are light sources

In order to determine how fliesoriented in space, scientists placed them on a special ball illuminated by black and blue lights. The fly was “tied” in order to stay in one place, but at the same time, the insects could move their paws and wings in order to try to move to a landmark that seems to them the most attractive. Next, scientists recorded the neural activity of flies.

We were able to actually record the feelingdirections of insects. And with just a few pieces of visual information, flies can build a whole map of their surroundings. Such “spatial maps” in the brain can be adapted to new visual objects that appear in the field of view. This is an amazing phenomenon, especially for such a tiny nervous system. Says Yvette Fisher, an employee at Howard Hughes Medical University and lead author of the study.

The results obtained give a new idea abouthow the brain can construct a map of space, while remaining flexible enough to adapt to new conditions. This work is also important to understand how other animals navigate in the wild: from insects such as ants and dung beetles, to mammals such as mice, and possibly even humans. Want to know more about this topic? Subscribe to us on Yandex.Zen. There you will find a lot of useful information from the world of high technology.

Three different colors indicate three neurons that provide visual signals to the compass in the fly’s brain.

As the researchers found, flies have a ring of“Compass neurons” in the brain that reflect the orientation of the fly in space. When a fly looks in a certain direction, there is a surge of activity in neurons somewhere around the ring. When the fly turns, the impulse moves to reflect the new orientation of the fly's head. This is similar to the way the compass needle rotates to constantly point north.

These compass neurons respond to flieseven in pitch darkness, but adding visual cues gives the flies an even better sense of direction. The question is how the compass keeps two sources of information, turns and visual signals, in complete synchronization with each other. One suggested explanation is that every visual neuron touches every compass neuron. These connections create a map in the brain of a fly. Repeated observation of a landmark in a certain place strengthens the connections between neurons.

To test your guesses into the arenainsects added another light source. Then the activity of the brain map changed - its direction was periodically turned 180 degrees, since the fly could not determine in which direction it should fly.

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But after some time, everything returned to normal andthe insect has chosen for itself an object that it would like to head to. Scientists say that these changes occur within a few minutes and correspond to the time frame that we subjectively feel when we arrive in an environment unknown to us and examine it.

The connection becomes stronger when the fly repeats this experience, strengthening the connection between neurons over time. - say the scientists.

As already mentioned, a similar studyIt will help not only to better study the physiology of insects and other representatives of the fauna, but also to improve the navigation algorithms of robots, self-driving drones and systems that are engaged in building terrain maps.