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"Easy decisions, based on clear evidence, will be fast; difficult decisions, based on uncertain evidence, will be slow." This spectacular insight was published this week not in the Journal of Duh, but in the illustrious Science.
Flies were trained to avoid a specific concentration of 4-methylcyclohexanol, which to us has a menthol-like scent. They were then herded into narrow chambers with varying concentrations of the compound at the entrance, and a distasteful concentration farther inside.
The researchers measured how quickly the flies deliberated in the "decision zone" before taking off. When the scent was diffuse, the decision was easy because the odors were dissimilar; the flies went straight through the decision zone to its border with the smell they didn't like. Once they hit that border, they did a hairpin turn and flew right out.
But when the odors were not as distinct from one another, the decision was harder. The flies zigged and zagged back and forth over the border between the two concentrations before eventually leaving—it took them a longer time to accumulate the information on which to base their decision.
The scientists discovered that fruit flies with mutations in a gene called FoxP took longer than normal flies to make decisions when odours were difficult to distinguish – they became indecisive.
The researchers tracked down the activity of the FoxP gene to a small cluster of around 200 neurons out of the 200,000 neurons in the brain of a fruit fly. This implicates these neurons in the evidence-accumulation process the flies use before committing to a decision.
Human FoxP1 and FoxP2 have previously been associated with language and cognitive development. The genes have also been linked to the ability to learn fine movement sequences, such as playing the piano.
'We don't know why this gene pops up in such diverse mental processes as language, decision-making and motor learning,' says Professor Miesenböck. However, he speculates: 'One feature common to all of these processes is that they unfold over time. FoxP may be important for wiring the capacity to produce and process temporal sequences in the brain.'
originally posted by: Attentionwandered
Isn't this the gene that they mentioned on ancient aliens?
Since flies have been around much, much earlier than humans IMO this kind of discredits his theory that aliens made these genes.