Using Linux and lasers, researchers can now control the minds of fruit flies

Imagine you’re a fruit fly, sniffing your way to your next feast of overripe produce. Suddenly, out of the blue you become engulfed in indigo light. Immediately you forget about the fruit, instead landing, and through no natural impulse of your own, begin singing and dancing your little insect heart out. No, your little insect self hasn’t been abducted by aliens. Instead, you’ve just become the newest test subject of the very real Dr. Andrew Straw.

I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords … a collaboration between researchers in Vienna and the US has produced high-resolution laser-control over fruit flies. If you have access to the necessary kit (cameras and a galvanometer) to track the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster in their experiment), plus a 635nm and a 808nm laser, you can try for yourself, since the software has been published here. FlyMAD – the Fly Mind Altering Device – program runs on Ubuntu 12.04 on AMD64 machines. As the researchers put it, FlyMAD “is a system for targeting freely walking flies (Drosophila) with lasers. By steering the optical path of the laser using large diameter mirrors, it also enables simultaneous imaging of the target region. This enables through-the-mirrors (TTM) targeting of specific body parts. Together, all this allows rapid thermo- and opto- genetic manipulation of the fly nervous system.”

What do you think?

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Written by Brian Molidor

Brian Molidor is Editor at Social News Watch. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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