Fruit Flies and Mosquitos room ‘Brainier’ than Most people Suspect, Say scientists Who counted the Bugs’ brain Cells
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(Left) Whole brain of a fruit fly. (Right) Nuclei of neurons in fruit fly brain tissue. Credit: Joshua Raji and also Christopher Potter, Johns Hopkins Medicine.

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In research study made feasible when COVID-19 sidelined various other research projects, researchers at Johns Hopkins medication meticulously counted brain cells in fruit flies and also three varieties of mosquitos, revealing a number that would certainly surprise many people outside the science world.


The insects’ small brains, on average, have about 200,000 neurons and other cells, castle say. By comparison, a human mind has 86 billion neurons, and a rodent brain contains around 12 billion. The figure probably represents a “floor” for the number necessary to perform the bugs’ complex behaviors.

“Even though this brains are simple , they deserve to do a most processing, even much more than a supercomputer,” claims Christopher Potter, Ph.D., associate professor the neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University college of Medicine. “They enable the insects to navigate, uncover food and perform other complex tasks in ~ the exact same time, and our study provides one answer come the concern of how many brain cells come with each other to conduct these behaviors,” Potter adds.

Results the the research study are summarized may 14 in PLOS ONE.

Those who study insect actions and mind function have actually long suspected these insects must have hundreds that thousands of mind cells, says Potter, yet when he and postdoctoral fellow Joshua Raji, Ph.D., followed chains the scientific documents that referenced the count, they walk not uncover proof because that it.

In response, lock report, they collection out to discover proof utilizing a relatively simple counting an approach called one isotropic fractionator, a technique familiar to pathologists when they tally the variety of any type of cell in a tissue.

First, Raji used a plastic pestle to malfunction all the brain tissue that the separation, personal, instance insects. Then, he supplied a pipette to break apart the tissue and distribute the cell evenly v a buffered solution.

Knowing the an accurate total volume of the solution, they might then count cells within a small fraction of the solution, and scale it approximately account for and also estimate the total number of cells in the entire solution.

To make the actual count, the tiny amount of systems was spread on a microscope slide and also placed on height of a tiny grid. V painstaking precision, Raji counted the cell on every slide, one through one.

The researcher concluded the the full sum of mind cells was 199,380 add to or minus 3,400 because that the fruit paris Drosophila melanogaster. For three varieties of mosquito, the researchers found 217,910 to add or minus 6,180 in Aedes aegypti; 223,020 plus or minus 4,650 in Anopheles coluzzii; and also 225,911 to add or minus 7,220 in Culex quinquefasciatus.

Raji and Potter uncovered that the brain cells in each species contained mainly neurons — around 90%. The rest are most likely supportive cells referred to as glia, castle say.

Potter says that researchers have established the number of mind cells in just a couple of species that insects, including wasps and also ants. “It would certainly be exciting to apply this approach to society insects like bees, and see if there are differences between queens and drones,” he says.

Potter also notes the the counting an approach is a an easy one that most researchers can perform, and it’s an opportunity for any type of researcher to do the counts and contribute castle to scientific literature.

Raji provided that he did most of the work for the research as a side project during times once COVID-19 restrictions stopped his key research projects.

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The most challenging part that the technique, states Potter, was the microdissection that a mind that is smaller sized than the reminder of a pencil. “It take away a really secure hand and lots that practice,” that says.

This occupational was sustained by grants from the room of Defense (W81XWH-17-PRMRP), indigenous the nationwide Institutes of health and wellness (NIAID R01Al137078) and a Johns Hopkins Malaria study Institute postdoctoral fellowship.