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Wired for Movement

This cross-sectional slice of a fly brain could easily be mistaken for a Rorschach inkblot test when viewed under the microscope. Duke biologist Vikas Bhandawat studies how fruit flies use their relatively simple brains to coordinate the movements of their limbs and muscles. By staining fly neurons according to the neurotransmitter they use to send messages to the body, Bhandawat and graduate student Cynthia Hsu found that flies, cockroaches and crickets are wired for movement in similar ways. The results could help researchers understand how insect brains control as many muscles as other animals, but using a thousand-fold fewer neurons.