Photo: Christa Baker / Murthy Lab

Mala Murthy and her research team have used neural imaging, optogenetics, motion capture, modeling, and artificial intelligence to study the brains of fruit flies while singing mating songs. “It might be a surprise to discover that the fruit flies buzzing around your banana can sing, but it’s more than music, it’s communication,” Murthy says. Only male fruit flies sing, and the females respond by either moving away or slowing down to allow the males to approach. The team mapped out all the neurons and connections in a fruit fly brain, pictured here. Murthy, professor and director of the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, is hoping this research will lead to a better understanding of how the brain decides what behavior is appropriate and in which contexts. It was published in October in the research journal Nature.