We must admit, we did not see this one coming: A team of Austrian scientists has developed a laser system that causes fruit flies to dance.

Dubbed FlyMAD (short for Fly Mind Altering Device), the system uses cameras to track fruit flies in flight and hit them with specially calibrated laser beams. The system is so precise that it can not only target individual fruit flies, it can hone in on specific parts of the flies’ bodies.

Feminine Appeal Can Be a Curse (for Fruit Flies)

The mind of a fruit fly, it turns out, is not terribly complex. By applying light and heat within a certain range, researchers can actually alter particular neural pathways in the fly’s brain. The flies are also genetically modified to be sensitive to these kinds of stimuli.

The researchers at the Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna were able to trigger dancing and singing responses in the flies, behavior correlated with a persistent state of courtship. “In the experiment this became obvious when males tried to mate with a ball of wax, circled it and started vibrating their wings after stimulation with the laser beam,” reports European research website IDW Online.

Flies Use Fighter Pilot Maneuver to Avoid Swatting

Lasers, dancing and perpetual courtship behavior? Back in the 1990s we called this a rave, but I suppose these Viennese researchers need something to keep them occupied. Results of the study will be published online in Nature Methods on May 25.


Credit: Wikimedia Commons