Neuroscientists at the Howard Hughes Medical institute are looking at how the behaviour of one of nature’s simplest creatures (the common fly) can shed some light on one of the most complex behaviours (courtship) and they’re doing it with lasers.
Everything is better with lasers, obviously, but the team being this research is looking at a less destructive form of weaponised light than we’re used to being fond of. The scientists do this by using thermogenetics, which is a technique by which you control neurons using heat, to better understand the courtship of flies.
But at least they’ve given their test system an awesome name. By triggering mating impulses in flies with the Fly Mind-Altering Device (FlyMAD), the team were able to make flies “fall in love” with a ball of wax.
FlyMAD, which tracks the flies while they fly around in a box, targets the insects with an infrared laser, delivering the heat necessary to trigger the targeted neurons. Activating these areas resulting in mating behaviour being displayed by flies towards the inanimate lump. The scientists, by triggering another set of neurons associated with muscle coordination, have also gotten the flies to fly backwards.
The FlyMAD research was presented at a conference in October 2013, and has been submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, so further applications of the technology might just be around the corner. So might high-powered laser pointers in lieu of love-potions, we guess.