Tully uses the creb gene to improve the memory
of fruit flies.
asked to name the animal scientists most often turn to in
their quest to unlock the secrets of human DNA, your answer
might be the chimpanzee, or the gorilla. While it's true that
these apes are our closest genetic cousins, it turns out the
rest of the animal kingdom is not far behind. Which makes
the easy to manage fruit fly an ideal candidate for genetic
Tim Tully, who has been
working with these flies for years, has recently made some
remarkable discoveries involving long-term memory. First Tully
conditions a group of flies to associate an unpleasant tingling
sensation in their feet with a certain chemical odor. He then
lowers the flies, elevator-style, into a tube with this odor
on one end, and another odor on the other. As one might expect,
the flies crowd away from the chemical odor associated with
the unpleasant sensation.
flies have been favored by genetic researches for 100
week later the flies will forget their experience unless Tully
exposes them to a series of trials, spaced about fifteen minutes
apart. After these training sessions, the flies are able form
a long-term memory of the unpleasant correlation. However,
Tully has found that by giving certain flies a gene that our
two species share, known as creb, these flies are able
to remember to avoid the smell one week later after just one
test, giving them the equivalent of a photographic memory.
The possibilities of Tully's discovery are endless, from helping
students cram for the big test, to treating debilitating conditions
like Alzheimer's disease.