University Of Queensland Researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute claimed to have discovered a method to gauge the attention span of a fly. This may result in additional progress in the comprehension of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism in humans.

The scientists seemed to merge genetic methods with brain recordings and discovered diverse mutations that may either augment or diminish a fly’s attention span. Fascinatingly, all of these mutations could generate learning and memory issues.

By means of the genetic fruit fly model Drosophila melanogaster, it was supposedly found that a fly’s stage of distractibility may be adjusted to enable standard behavioural responses to a continually altering surrounding.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Bruno van Swinderen, commented, “We now have the two ends of an attention spectrum in our model. We have a fly memory mutant that is hard to distract and another fly memory mutant that’s too distractible. They both have the same result – they don’t learn well but for completely different reasons, not unlike human patients afflicted with autism and ADHD. You need a certain amount of distractibility to be able to assimilate your world – concentrating too much or too little affects your ability to process and retain information.”

Comprehending the procedures controlling attention and memory in the fly brain may enable scientists to perceive in a better way as to how memory and attention may function jointly to manage behavior. Dr van Swinderen apparently fed the fruit flies methylphenidate, which is marketed under the brand name Ritalin and is generally used for children suffering from ADHD. He supposedly discovered that the drug appeared to have comparable results on fruit flies as it did on people. It is said to have aided the distractible flies to keep their mind on the visual stimuli.

Swinderen mentioned, “It suggests there may be similar pathways in the brains of fruit flies and humans, which means we now have a simple reductionist model, with all the genetic tools that go along with it, to try to understand what exactly this drug is doing.”

He further remarked that is known that this drug affects different pathways. Now one can really try to ask how does that translate to other brain phenomena, such as how neurons talk to one another. It will help in forming the bigger picture. This in turn may additionally unravel hints about creating and sustaining memories.

The research was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.