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Tasting Brains

Mapping neuronal networks involved in taste, hunger and feeding behaviour

07 September 2022

Tasting Brains

It’s tempting to think of the brain as a computer, taking inputs from the world, and responding with appropriate outputs – but does this work in practice? Here researchers explore circuits of neurons in a fruit fly (Drosophila) brain. Using a combination of genetic techniques, they light up and map out neurons. First, they trigger gustatory neurons that usually help the fly respond to a sugary taste (highlighted in green) revealing connections with sensorimotor neurons (pink then blue) that in turn connect to specific motor neurons (orange) involved in extending the fly’s proboscis, part of its mouth used for feeding. The team believe these networks may react more strongly when hungry and respond differently to various tastes. This may help the fly to react to sensory stimuli in a changing world, and maybe give insights into similar mechanisms behind our own senses.

Written by John Ankers

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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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