Washington: What if the love side of your brain could be activated by a laser beam?

In the case of flies, they can flirt and fall in love when exposed to a mind-altering device that activates heat-sensitive neurons involved in courtship.

A neuroscientist in the US has developed a system called the Fly Mind-Altering Device (FlyMAD). This uses a video camera to track the fly as it moves around in a box.

The device then shines an infra-red laser at the fly to deliver heat directly to a specific set of neurons in the brain.

Now charged, the fly tried to mate even with a ball of wax – circling it and “singing” by vibrating its wings!

The fly continued courting for about 15 minutes after the laser was shut off.

“Optogenetics – triggering neurons with light – has been successful in mice but has not been pursued much in flies,” said Barry Dickson, a neuroscientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia.

A new technique called thermogenetics allows researchers to control fly behaviour by activating specific neurons with heat.

“Combining the system with techniques that use light to trigger neurons could help elucidate how different neural circuits work together to control complex behaviours such as courtship,” explained Dickson.

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