A fly's eye view

June 14, 2000

What can a fly's eye view of the world tell us about how our own brains work?

A team of scientists from the University of Cambridge will be answering this question at the Royal Society's New Frontiers in Science Exhibition, which opens next week.

The group's exhibit, called Seeing the brain through a fly's eye, will demonstrate how research into a fly's visual system can show how our own brains have evolved to process information more efficiently.

As well as getting the chance to discover what the world looks like through the eyes of a common housefly, visitors to the exhibition will be able to take part in experiments with giant model neurones -- and take a look at some of the research being carried out in the Insect Vision Group, at the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology.

Professor Simon Laughlin, head of the group, has been researching how much energy an insect uses to process different kinds of information.

Since energy supply is critical to the brain, there is an evolutionary pressure on the brain to use energy efficiently.

Professor Laughlin said:

"Understanding the relationship between energy and information processing could have far-reaching implications.

"If we can understand which processes in the human brain consume the most energy, this could be useful for developing effective treatments for treating stroke patients.

"It could also give us a better understanding of how state-of-the-art scanning techniques, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) work."
Notes for editors:

1. Seeing the brain through a fly's eye was devised by Rob Harris and Brian Burton, in the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge. The exhibition team also includes Dr David Smith and Dr Gonzalo Garcia de Polavieja, also of the Department of Zoology, and Ben Tatler of the University of Sussex.

2. Research in the group is funded by The Rank Prize Funds, The Wellcome Trust, BBSRC. The Royal Society exhibit was sponsored by the BBSRC and Granta Park Ltd., Great Abington, Cambridge and supported by Sony UK, the Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge and The Royal Society.

3. New Frontiers in Science 2000 is the Royal Society's annual summer science exhibition. It will be held in London at The Royal Society, 6 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG, from 20 June 2000 to 22 June 2000. Contact 207-451-2513 for further details.

The exhibition will also be held in Edinburgh at The Royal Society of Edinburgh, 22-26 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PQ, from 28 June 2000 to 29 June 2000. Contact 131-240-5000 for further details.

University of Cambridge

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