How you can make a fruit fly eat veggies | DIY Neuroscience, a TED series

How you can make a fruit fly eat veggies | DIY Neuroscience, a TED series

Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Krystian Aparta Greg Gage: It’s an age-old
pursuit of all parents, getting their kids
to eat their vegetables. But getting them to eat
cookies or ice cream is relatively easy, and that’s because our brains
prefer sweetness. Now, there’s a new technology
called optogenetics which may be able to trick our taste buds, for instance preferring
vegetables over sweets. We’re going to try this today
using fruit flies. [DIY Neuroscience] The reason why we experiment
with fruit flies is they have a small enough nervous system that gives us a fighting chance
to really understand what’s going on. And believe it or not, their taste buds
are very similar to ours. But before we try to manipulate
their taste preferences, we need to establish:
What is the baseline of the fruit fly? What does it prefer? We call this a control experiment. Spencer’s been hard at work doing this. OK, Spencer, let’s do
our first experiment. We want to test to see if fruit flies
prefer bananas or broccoli. So what do we need? Spencer Brown: So we need the fly pad,
which is basically an iPad for flies. It measures the touch. GG: You put a fly in each chamber? SB: Yeah. Inside, we’ll offer them
banana and broccoli to see which one they prefer. GG: In order to count how many times the fruit fly eats a banana
versus the broccoli, these chambers have been outfitted
with a small electrode that sends data to a computer. And so what were your findings
on banana versus broccoli? SB: I found that the flies
visited banana the most. GG: Both were there, but like most kids, they choose not to eat the broccoli,
and they go switch to something sweeter. GG: Now a quick background
on how taste works. Taste buds are made up
of specialized neurons called taste receptors. When we eat something
that triggers a particular taste, those taste neurons will fire
a signal to the brain. This allows our brain to know
what’s sweet and what’s bitter. So when a fruit fly eats a banana,
its sweet taste neurons will fire. But when it eats broccoli,
those same neurons stay pretty quiet. But what if we could force
those sweet-tasting neurons to fire every time the fruit fly eats broccoli? We may be able to get the fruit fly to like broccoli as much as banana. Enter optogenetics. This is the revolutionary new tool
that’s taking neuroscience by storm, and in this case, “opto” means light and “genetic” refers to the fact
that these fruit flies have been modified to contain a special gene that makes
only certain neurons respond to light. In our case, we’ve added the special gene
to the sweet taste receptors. Now here’s the fun part. Optogenetics means that we
can control these special neurons whenever they’re exposed
to a bright-colored light, causing them to send
messages to the brain. In this experiment, we’re going to have
these modified fruit flies choose between banana and broccoli again, only this time, every time
the fruit fly eats the broccoli, we’re going to trigger
a big bright red light. And when the channels see that red light,
they’re going to open up, and they’re going to cause
that neuron to fire, and the sweet taste message
will be sent to the brain. How do you get them out? SB: So we’re going to be using
a mouth aspirator, so it’s just two straws put together. GG: So it’s a fancy name for a straw. SB: Basically. GG: So you’re going to suck those out. Have you ever sucked up a fly before? SB: Once or twice. GG: There we go. You got all four. OK, perfect. So you’re going to turn on
your OptoStimmers here. You’re going to park the light
right on top of the chambers. So now we sit here and we wait
for them to eat broccoli, and then when the light fires, they’re going to think
it’s tasting something sweet. Come on. Oh, he’s getting closer. Come on. It tastes good now. SB: It’s about to. GG: Oh, he’s back. All right! All right, so now we see
that some of these flies are switching over from
the banana to the broccoli. SB: Exactly, yeah. GG: Every time this light goes off, that means that they think
they’re tasting something sweet. SB: Yeah. So this guy’s
really going after it. GG: So we saw that we were able
to rescue broccoli and make it just as appealing
as banana to our fruit flies. And we’re able to replicate
these same results in all of our experiments. So the question is: Can we
do the same thing in humans? Well, that depends on a number of items. First, do optogenetic tools
even work in humans? And that looks like the answer is yes, and in fact, clinical trials
are already being planned that will treat chronic pain
and blindness using optogenetics. And the next question is,
can we easily trigger a light source so that every time we eat
vegetables, it will go off? For that, I’m afraid at least
at this time, the answer is still no. But today, we got to witness
just a taste of optogenetics and its amazing potential. (Music)

58 thoughts on “How you can make a fruit fly eat veggies | DIY Neuroscience, a TED series”

  1. Interesting. I wonder if this would still work with people who are dealing with migraines or a concussion and are sensitive to light, associating it with a negative trigger? I'm also wondering if it is the pineal gland that the light is stimulating, but then I think it is only vertebrates with a pineal gland.

  2. Interesting, I wonder how the military is going to use this. Maybe we would have controllable animal weaponry coming soon in a few decade!

  3. All those people wearing aluminium hats are just far ahead of their time. Gotta protect from the mind-controlling light, kids…

  4. noooo they were just fooled, they still preferred one thing but were fooled into thinking it was another. No change occurred, just successful fooling..

  5. 4:12 surely you could just have a machine learning algorithm that could identify food and trigger a light whenever it sees veggies going into someone's face. I found a list of projects that do the recognition part on google:, and connecting that algorithm to a micro controller controlling a light is something a high school student could do.

  6. I hear tell that even some adults don't like broccoli. I find the stuff great. It soaks up what ever sauce their in and have a crispy and fun texture!

  7. Broccoli cannot compete with Banana
    My kids like both anyway
    I dont care for broccoli though, maybe once in awhile and just the bush part 🙂

  8. Charlie tell mummy what is your favourite colour? it's orange mummy. Lovely broccoli for lunch today charlie , look charlie it's orange !💥flash 💥flash💥flash💥flash💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥

  9. Children don't like vegetables because they're not meant to eat vegetables, you brainwashed, brainwashing moron.

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