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Do Fruit Flies Offer Clues to Sensory Issues?

December 27, 2013

Harvard neurobiologist Rachel Wilson is studying the brains of fruit flies in an effort to explain why individuals with autism can be easily overwhelmed by loud noises, smells, light or touch.  

In the same way human brains can adjust the “volume” of sensory signals, fruit flies have a way to adjust how their systems process odors.  Wilson’s research found that fruit flies have brain circuits that work like gas and brake pedals in car. The insects put the brakes on strong odors as to not become overwhelmed and pump the gas to help identify a faint odor. Wilson hopes this research helps autism researchers locate similar brain circuits in humans.

Listen to the story on NPR below.