Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagFruit flies (brains)

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neuron cell with electrical pulses concept 3d illustration.

Our Neurons’ Electrical Synapses Are the Dark Matter of the Brain

These aren’t the familiar chemical synapses but a second set, the electrical synapses that enable currents to travel directly between neurons from pore to pore.

The universe has its dark matter, the 23% of matter that we know is out there but can’t see because it emits no light. The brain has its own “dark matter” too, in the form of electrical synapses. These are not the chemical synapses by which neurons transmit a stimulus from one cell to the next. They are a second layer of synapse that allows message-carrying currents to flow passively from one neuron to another through pores in the neurons’ cell walls. They are likely important because just about every type of animal except echinoderms (starfish and sand dollars, for example) has them — and yet we don’t know much about them: ”Electrical synapses are much rarer and are hard…

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Super macro shot tiny fruit flies on the top of a banana

The Brain Unfolds Like a Drama, With Neurons in Different Roles

Researchers studying fruit flies hope that spotting the stages at which human neurons go missing or wrong can help develop treatments to insert or replace them

We are not accustomed to thinking of fruit flies as even having brains. But they have 120 types of neurons in their visual system alone (which could be why they are so pesky): In the research published in Nature, the researchers studied the brains of the fruit fly Drosophila to uncover the complete set of tTFs needed to generate the roughly 120 neuron types of the medulla, a specific brain structure in the visual system of flies. They used state-of-the-art single-cell mRNA sequencing to obtain the transcriptome — all of the genes expressed in a given cell — of more than 50,000 individual cells that were then grouped into most of the cell types present in the developing medulla… The…