Fruit flies Leads Key to Human Decision Making

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By Silvana Peters | May 23, 2014 4:20 PM EST

It appears that people aren't the only one's who mull over tough decision, says a new study published in the journal Science , when faced with touch decisions, fruit flies take time to process a decision.

Similar to humans, flies also make preconceived decisions and the trickier the decision, files ponder on the choices over a longer period of time than they would simpler ones.

"Scientists have long been fascinated by decision-making, said an author of the study, quotes Boston.com of Dr. Gero Miesenböck," a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford.

The team of Gero Miesenböck, Shamik DasGupta, Clara Howcroft Ferreira and other members measured reaction times in flies when choosing among different smells.

Talking to BBC, Miesenböck explains that contrary to popular belief that insects are merely reactors, this study reveals that even such a simple animal brain is capable of cognitive processing.

Boston.com explained the process of observation began with researchers placing a fly in a bifurcated chamber and filled the two sides with odours they've been taught to avoid. The study noted that if the odor's potency were significantly different, a majority of the flies were quicker to decide which chamber to go to, but when the different odour was less pronounced or subtle, the flies would take longer to reach a decision.

Miesenböck claimed the results came as a surprise as "the original thought was that the flies would just act impulsively, they won't take time to deliberate. We found that's not true."

They found a specific gene, FoxP, associated with decision-making that mutations in the gene took longer to decide. The same gene in humans has been closely linked to cognitive development and language and defects have been associated with lower intelligence and difficulties with languages, noted Boston.com.

"Before a decision is made, brain circuits collect information like a bucket collects water," said Dr Shamik DasGupta. "Once the amount of accumulated information has risen to a certain level, the decision is triggered. When FoxP is defective, either the flow of information into the bucket is reduced to a trickle, or the bucket has sprung a leak."

The findings show that cognitive processes and abilities are found even with species as lowly as fruit flies and will be useful for researchers as they study human cognitive development and subsequent disorders.

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