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The brain of a fruit fly

A fruit fly feeding on a banana

Sanjay Acharya / Wikimedia Commons

Scientists from the University of Cambridge, UK, and Johns Hopkins University, USA, spent a year and a half capturing brain images of a single fruit fly larva (Drosophila melanogaster) with an electronic microscope, identifying 3,016 neurons and 548,000 synapses. It is the first complete map of an insect’s brain. Previously, only simpler structures had been mapped, such as the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, which has hundreds of neurons. The diagram of connections showed that the fruit fly’s brain has several layers, with pathways of different lengths and sometimes shortcuts. The researchers acknowledge that current technology is not advanced enough to map the brain connections of more complex animals, such as large mammals (Science, Nature News, and University of Cambridge, March 10).