Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

BPoD is 5

In 2017 we celebrate five years of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science

Learning to Fly
11 September 2017

Learning to Fly

Trying to understand how our brains work, scientists often turn to the similar, but simpler, fruit fly. This reconstruction shows thousands of neurons (as coloured blobs) using stringy projections to connect different areas in the developing fly brain. Helping to untangle these 'wires', 3D electron microscopy reveals groups of neurons forming connections, or synapses, creating brain circuits suited to different tasks. Special neurons called Kenyon cells huddle together in two brain regions called mushroom bodies (clusters of tiny white blobs, left). These help to create associative memories – similar to circuits which help our brains to learn. For the first time, neurons feeding information into (green and blue) and out from (pink) the mushroom bodies are mapped in a sort of wiring diagram using specialist software. This is part of a worldwide effort to understand how learning and memory work inside fly brains, providing clues about human brains too.

Written by John Ankers

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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.

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