Ye Li, Graduate Student (Cai Laboratory), Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan Medical School
A major goal of the Obama BRAIN initiative is to understand how the individual neurons in the brain connect to one another to allow organized transmission of signals that are required for learning and memory. But that is nearly impossible to do in the human, so researchers turn to simpler models. A species of fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) has a brain of about 100,000 neurons and exhibits many complex behaviors, making it a perfect model to start with. The Cai lab has developed a new tool (FLY Brainbow) to map individual neurons of the fly brain with different colors so that their projections can be tracked. Additionally, when the cells divide, their progeny will be the same color. Here, groups of identically colored cells can be seen to form a common projection path, forming these delicate and colorful bouquets.