Can you imagine watching 20,000 videos, 16 minutes apiece, of fruit flies walking, grooming, and chasing mates? Fortunately, you don’t have to, because scientists have designed a computer program that can do it faster.
Aided by artificial intelligence, researchers have made 100 billion annotations of behavior from 400,000 flies to create a collection of maps linking fly mannerisms to their corresponding brain regions.
At a mere 100,000 neurons-compared with our 86 billion-the small size of the fly brain makes it a good place to pick apart the inner workings of neurobiology.
To conduct the new research, computer scientist Kristin Branson of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia, and colleagues acquired 2204 different genetically modified fruit fly strains.
Then the scientists derived 203 statistics describing the behaviors in the collected data, such as how often the flies walked and their average speed. The scientists divided the fly brain into a novel set of 7065 tiny regions and linked them to the behaviors they had observed.
Not much is known about female aggression in fruit flies, and the new maps gives leads for which brain regions might be driving these actions.