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Trends Genet. 2001 Dec;17(12):719-26.

What can we teach Drosophila? What can they teach us?

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Dept of Neurobiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01655, USA.


A number of single gene mutations dramatically reduce the ability of fruit flies to learn or to remember. Cloning of the affected genes implicated the adenylyl cyclase second-messenger system as key in learning and memory. The expression patterns of these genes, in combination with other data, indicates that brain structures called mushroom bodies are crucial for olfactory learning. However, the mushroom bodies are not dedicated solely to olfactory processing; they also mediate higher cognitive functions in the fly, such as visual context generalization. Molecular genetic manipulations, coupled with behavioral studies of the fly, will identify rudimentary neural circuits that underly multisensory learning and perhaps also the circuits that mediate more-complex brain functions, such as attention.

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