The Mind Behind the (Insect) Brains, Caltech's Dr. Michael Dickinson Explores the Brain of the Modern Fly, as it Relates to the Ancient World

Published : Wednesday, February 14, 2018 | 6:30 AM

Dr. Michael Dickinson and a strobe picture of a fruit fly in free flight. Images, Caltech and Floris van Breugel

Dr. Michael Dickinson and a strobe picture of a fruit fly in free flight. Images, Caltech and Floris van Breugel

400 million years ago, insects evolved the ability to fly, and nothing has been the same since.

Using a diverse assortment of techniques from fields such as neuroscience, biomechanics, and engineering, Caltech’s Dr. Michael Dickinson will attempt to reconstruct the behavior and ecology of ancestral insects by focusing on the common fruit fly. He’ll discuss how much, and how little, has changed over the millennia for the insects, this Wednesday, at 8:00 p.m at Beckman Auditorium.

“The brains of insects are very, very conservative. They’re very similar across species so you can look in the brain of the bee, the brain of the locust, the brain of a beetle, the brain of a fly and find very similar circuitry which implies that their brains have little behavioral modules that date back 400 million years. Those are the things I’ll be talking about, sort of a suite of behaviors that emerge in these proto insects,” he said, adding, “They have transformed every terrestrial ecosystem (out) there except for our hubris. They’re really the dominant form of life on the planet.”

Through his work, Dickinson hopes to provide a fascinating window into the past—and possibly the future—with new insight into the evolution of our planet’s most diverse group of organisms.

Michael H. Dickinson is Esther M. and Abe M. Zarem Professor of Bioengineering and Aeronautics at Caltech, in the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering.

This is a free event; no tickets or reservations are required.

Reserved section tickets are available to members of the Friends of Beckman Auditorium and the Caltech Associates.

For more information call: 626-395-4652

Or click here: www.caltech.edu/

 

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