Did you know that attention-related disorders could be similar in humans and flies? A team of study authors from Freie Universität and the Queensland Brain Institute in Brisbane, Australia, claims to have discovered a method to gauge the attention span of a fly. The outcomes may result in additional progress in the comprehension of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism in humans.
The study authors supposedly merged genetic methods with brain recordings and behavioral examination. They apparently discovered diverse mutations that may either augment or reduce a fly’s attention span.
The study was headed by Associate Professor Bruno van Swinderen at the Queensland Brain Institute in Brisbane and Dr. Björn Brembs at Freie Universität.
By means of a genetic fruit fly model, Drosophila melanogaster, van Swinderen apparently discovered that a fly’s level of distractibility is said to be finely tuned to enable ‘standard’ behavioral reactions to a continuously altering surrounding.
He 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.”
The fruit flies were given methylphenidate, which is marketed under the brand name Ritalin and is applied to treat patients suffering from ADHD. The study authors apparently discovered that the drug appeared to have comparable consequences on fruit flies as it had on individuals. It appeared to aid the distractible flies to focus on the visual stimuli.
Van Swinderen remarked that it suggests there may be similar pathways in the brains of fruit flies and humans, which means they 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. Brembs agrees by mentioning that these surprising parallels between insects and humans may point to a general, common functional organization of brains.