Jenn Hall

Princeton OIT Annual Report 2017-2018: When Software Engineering Meets Neuroscience

For the average person, any rumination on the fruit fly ends with a distracted swat. Yet the hidden world of this diminutive species has potential to reveal surprising insights into the neural-generated behavior of species across the animal kingdom, including our own.

For example, it may surprise the uninitiated to learn that fruit fly mating rituals include elements commonly associated with classic human romance, intricately patterned love songs among them. Smitten by a potential partner, a male plays a song using his fast-fluttering wings. As his prospective female partner responds, moving toward or away, he measures her proximity and speed and adjusts his tune in real time.

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If all goes well, he will convince her to become his mate. For Princeton Neuroscience Institute (PNI) Professor of Neuroscience and Molecular Biology Mala Murthy, the neural patterns that spark such songs can unlock insight into how the brain processes sensory information to inform behavior. With the addition of Research Software Engineer David Turner to PNI in 2017, her ability to explore this question has grown by leaps and bounds.

Read the complete story, and view the complete 2017-2018 OIT annual report, for which I was the editorial lead.

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