27 Feb 2014

Fruit Flies and Memory

From Our Changing World, 9:20 pm on 27 February 2014

Fruit fly brains and courtship behaviour

From left to right: Four dissected Drosophila (fruit fly) brains under normal light, a male Drosophila courting a female, and a Drosophila brain with a fluorescent tag that glows green in the areas where the HDAC4 protein is localised

 Helen Fitzsimons

The brain of Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit fly, may be less than a 1mm across, but it contains 200,000 neurons, and the genes involved in memory formation are highly conserved. Drosophila is capable of learning and remembering, and Helen Fitzsimons (right) from Massey University in Palmerston North is increasing the amount of an enzyme called histone deacetylase (HDAC4) in a specific part of the brain, and then she is looking at the courtship behaviour of male flies, to see what effect the changes have on memory. Ruth Beran discovers that her work may lead to better pharmaceuticals for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.