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Cocktails & Chromosomes: Through the eyes of a fruit fly

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Ever wonder why a zebra has stripes? This question might’ve inspired a young Benjamin Cowley to get into science in the first place. Today, he’s an assistant professor at Cold Spring Harbor (CSHL) investigating how the brain’s visual system works. That’s a tall order, as the human brain contains about 100 billion neurons. So, Cowley starts someplace smaller—in the mind of the common fruit fly.

Fruit flies are pretty predictable. Leave a piece of fruit sitting out, and sooner or later, they’ll find it. Socially, they can be somewhat single-minded as well. The fruit fly courtship ritual may last up to 30 minutes. “Fruit flies live for maybe two, three weeks,” Cowley explains. “So this is actually a huge chunk of their lifespan.”

In this latest installment of Cocktails & Chromosomes, Cowley invites you to see the world through the eyes of a fruit fly. He also provides a sneak peek at his lab’s new AI model, which can accurately predict fruit fly behavior based on specific visual stimuli (look for more about this research in the near future). And he offers an unexpected answer to that age-old question about zebra stripes.

Want to see the next Cocktails & Chromosomes live? Register now for the April 25 event. CSHL Assistant Professor Lucas Cheadle will talk about the ongoing dialogue between your immune system and your brain!