Scientists have used a laser to control a female fly’s mind and make it sing “love songs” which are only ever sung by males. The ground-breaking research, which suggests the difference between the sexes may be much subtler than thought, was conducted using radical new technology which allows scientists to turn individual brain cells on and off by shining a light on them.
The research is predominantly the work of Gero Miesenböck, an Austrian scientist formerly of Yale University who has recently moved to Oxford. Nicknamed “Lord of the Flies” by contemporaries, Professor Miesenböck specialises in controlling fly movements by genetically modifying certain brain cells to make them sensitive to light.
This is the first time an animal’s sexual behaviour has been modified by such “mind control” techniques.