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Taking Flight

Insight into how neuronal networks for carrying out behaviours like flight and walking are built in fruit flies

28 June 2020

Taking Flight

Animal behaviour is driven by the billions of interconnected neurons that make up the central nervous system (CNS). But how does this process come about? During development, progenitor cells create families of neurons, or lineages, each responsible for executing a particular behaviour. Neurons in each lineage inherit similar identities and form a neuronal network that enables the young animal to perform that behaviour. This lineage-based organisation is found even in the relatively simple nervous system of the fruit fly. Recently, scientists traced a specific protein, Unc-4, to several lineages responsible for carrying out crucial fruit fly behaviours like taking flight and walking. This image shows the interconnected neurons (in green) that originate from the same lineage and form part of a network that helps a fly take off. Studies like these show us how animals rely on proteins like Unc-4 to grow the neuronal networks they need to survive.

Written by Gaëlle Coullon

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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