Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Technique called SCAPE allows nerve impulses to be mapped in a living fly larva

15 April 2019

Sense Ability

Often considered our 'sixth sense', proprioception is awareness to movement and body position – using impulses sent to the brain as we navigate our surroundings. It’s a challenge to actually watch this happening inside moving humans, yet in this fruit fly’s almost transparent body (partly highlighted in orange), proprioceptive neurons (purple) bend and stretch in three dimensions as it squirms across a high-powered microscope. A new technique called SCAPE uses fast but gentle ‘sheets’ of laser light to track impulses in communicating cells, finding these signals are synchronised with patterns of squirms – some neurons ‘fire’ when the animal's body stretched, others when it is compressed. In the future these techniques might peek at cellular machinery driving other physical activities, in healthy and injured cells, and relate the results back to the fly’s genetic relation – us!

Written by John Ankers

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