Can A Fruit Fly Help Explain Autism?

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For President Obama, 2013 wasn't just the year of Obamacare. It was also the year of the brain.

In April, Obama announced his Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative — an effort to unlock "the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears."

But scientists say that in order to explain the human brain, they'll have to learn a lot more about much smaller and simpler brains, like those in mice and insects and worms. "What you need is access to circuits and cells, and that probably means not in humans," says professor Leslie Tolbert of the University of Arizona neuroscience department.

For example, scientists are using fruit flies to figure out why many people with autism are easily overwhelmed by loud sounds, bright lights, strong odors or simply being touched.

Rachel Wilson, a neurobiologist at Harvard, suspected that this sensory overload might be caused by a malfunction in brain circuits that adjust the "volume" of sensory signals. But there's no easy way to study that in people. So she turned to fruit flies, which use a similar volume-control system to process odors.

Written By: Jon Hamilton
continue to source article at npr.org

4 COMMENTS

  1. And knowing how to restore areas of the brain to a youthful learning state could be useful in treating a wide range of other problems, from ADHD to perhaps even schizophrenia, Trachtenberg says.

    This is the astonishing take-away from this. Maybe early cultural wiring, emotional impoverishment in the abused brain, bathed in cortisol from babyhood, are fixable to some degree??

    Who knows? Even the religious may be cured of their early indoctrination one day.

  2. “Can a Fruit Fly help explain Autism?” Yes, probably.

    Drosophila have been used extensively in cancer and other genetic research since the 1930s, because of their short life cycle, the ease with which they can be bred and kept, the large volume of eggs they produce and their genetic makeup.

    I personally am relieved and grateful that no one told Sarah Palin that, and she exposed herself as an ignoramus, ending her chances of being elected to the second most powerful post in the World.

    I’m frightening myself now!

    • Stafford, You completely read my mind! I cringe when I recall that idiots voice and her call to stop wasting money on experiments that use fruit flies. Damn, how close did the US come to a catastrophic decision???

      In reply to #2 by Stafford Gordon:

      “Can a Fruit Fly help explain Autism?” Yes, probably.

      Drosophila have been used extensively in cancer and other genetic research since the 1930s, because of their short life cycle, the ease with which they can be bred and kept, the large volume of eggs they produce and their genetic makeup.

      I pers…

      • In reply to #3 by crookedshoes:
        >

        Stafford, You completely read my mind! I cringe when I recall that idiots voice and her call to stop wasting money on experiments that use fruit flies. Damn, how close did the US come to a catastrophic decision???

        There must be a vast repository of genetic information and discoveries from the decades of work on fruit flies (Drosophila) – varying from simple evolutionary understandings from mutants growing legs in place of antennae to this sort of neurological work.

        It is just as well that the past research funding, has not been decided by pig-headed political ignoramuses.

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