compass brain activity
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The compass inside a fly's brain

US researchers have glimpsed the activity of a "compass" inside the brain of fruit flies.

They used a microscope to watch neurons firing inside a fly's brain, while it walked on a spherical treadmill.

A patch of concentrated activity shifted around a donut-shaped ring of cells, according to the direction the fly was headed.

Similar activity takes place in the brains of mammals, where a scattered set of cells report which direction the animal is facing - but this has never been seen in flies before.

The work was done by neuroscientists at the Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and published in the journal Nature.

  • 13 May 2015
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