Typing this sentence involves my nervous system coordinating a complex sequence of events. How does this happen? Researchers look to fruit flies for answers, focusing on another sequential behaviour – grooming after getting covered with dust. Flies always start with their head, then abdomen, wings and back. A different neural pathway coordinates grooming each area. Using optogenetics, the team selectively turned these pathways (green) on by shining a light on the flies, and imaged them using fluorescence microscopy. With all the pathways on simultaneously, the flies still began with head grooming. More digging suggested all pathways are readied for action but the one that controls the most important action suppresses them. Once that action is complete, another round of competition takes place with the pathway controlling the next most important action winning. Figuring this out in flies may help reveal how even more complex sequential behaviours play out in humans.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.