A new technique that traces and automatically classifies the behaviour of fruit flies is reported in Nature Communications this week. The study shows that individual flies display particular patterns of movement that are distinct from those of other flies and are stable over periods of days.
The tool, which was developed by Benjamin de Bivort and his team, operates in a similar manner to motion capture technologies used in digital animation. Each of the fly’s six legs is marked with spots of a different fluorescent dye, which are then illuminated with a laser as the fly roams on a ball. Based on the positions of the spots, a computer program classifies what the fly is doing in real time.
It should in future be possible to combine the system with existing methods to monitor the activity of individual neurons in the fly brain, enhancing efforts to map the neuronal networks that drive specific behaviours.