Headless, remote-controlled flies

Now there’s a headline I never expected to write. But such is the inexorable march of science that, in this issue of Cell, there’s a cool study in which some Yale professors stimulated the neurons of fruit flies with laser pulses — and were able to remotely control their behavior, like tiny robots. At one point, they removed the heads of several flies and discovered it was still possible to sufficiently stimulate the remaining neurons to induce activity. Indeed, they even managed to get the headless ones to fly — which you can see for yourself in this video that Cell has put online. (That’s a screen grab above.)

This research could help us identify brain cells identified with specific behaviors — from schizophrenia to overeating and aggressiveness, as one of the professors told the Associated Press:

“Ultimately, that could be important to understanding human psychiatric disorders,” Miesenbock said. “That’s really futuristic stuff.”

Yet another example of the wonderful humanitarian results that can stem from insanely creepy research. I mean, mad props to these guys, but seriously: HEADLESS FLIES? That video looks like some sort of ghastly outtake from The Ring. I am so not going to sleep tonight.

(Thanks to Andrew for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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