New research sheds light on the origins of social behavior

Newswise – ITHACA, NY – Male flies don't usually like each other. Socially, they reject their fellow males and underestimate the females they meet through chemical receptors – or so scientists thought.

New research from biologists at Cornell University suggests that the fly's visual system, not just chemical receptors, is deeply involved in their social behaviors. The work sheds light on the possible origins of differences in human social behaviors, such as those found in people with bipolar disorder and autism.

pay, “Visual feedback neurons fine-tune Drosophila male courtship through GABA-mediated inhibition,” was published in Current Biology on September 5.

Many animal species use vision to regulate their social behavior, but the underlying mechanisms are largely unknown. In fruit flies, vision is apparently used to detect and track movement rather than regulate social behaviors – but researchers have found that this may not be the case.

“In our study, we found that hyperactivation of the visual system overcame the inhibition produced by the chemical signals emitted by the male fly to tell the other male, ‘Okay, you know, I'm the other male, don't bother me. – says the senior author Nilay YapichAssistant Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior. “Surprisingly, the visual boost in the brain somehow overrides chemosensory inhibition, attracting male flies to other males.”

The researchers found that changing the GABARAP/GABAA Receptor signaling of visual feedback neurons in the male brain affects social inhibition in flies. When GABARAP breaks down in the visual system, males are suddenly exposed to other males.

Researchers have found that genes in the human brain control the fly's visual neurons. Decreased GABA signaling in the human brain is associated with social withdrawal characteristics in conditions such as autism and schizophrenia.

“Our results offer a promising way to investigate how these proteins regulate social behaviors in the mammalian brain and their potential contribution to human psychiatric conditions,” said lead author Yuta Mabuchi, Ph.D. '23.

See this for more information Cornell Chronicle story.