Flies and mosquitoes are smarter than we suspect

Flies and mosquitoes are smarter than we suspect

The tiny brains of insects like flies and mosquitoes, on average, have around 200,000 neurons . By comparison, a human brain has 86 billion neurons and a rodent brain contains about 12 billion.

However, even though these brains seem simple to us in contrast to mammalian brains, they can carry out a great deal of processing, allowing them to navigate, find food, and perform other complicated tasks at the same time, such as suggests a new study .

New brain cell count

Flies can perceive movements around them in slow motion, which is why they are so difficult to catch. Your tiny brain visually processes multiple movements in fractions of a second. However, even after 50 years of research, the interconnection of nerve cells in the brain of flies remains a mystery.

In a new study, they set out to find more reliable evidence of the number of neurons involved in the processing of these insects using a relatively simple counting method called an isotropic fractionator, a technique familiar to pathologists when they count the number of any type of cell in a cell. tissue. The most challenging part of the technique, according to the lead researcher, was the microdissection of a brain that is smaller than the tip of a pencil .

The researchers thus concluded that the sum total of brain cells was 199,380 (roughly 3,400) for the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster .

For three species of mosquitoes, the researchers found 217,910 (roughly 6,180 in Aedes aegypti); 223,020 (plus or minus 4,650) in Anopheles coluzzii; and 225,911 (plus or minus 7,220) in Culex quinquefasciatus.

The researchers found that the brain cells of each species contained mainly neurons, about 90% . Most likely, the rest are support cells called glia.