Locusts: Star Wars

music: Star Wars theme, locust neuron emissions

Well these days, it’s not only Jedi knights who are taking the force seriously. It turns out that a team of British scientists are using Star Wars as part of an experiment that tests a insect’s response to visual stimuli. And yes, it may one day help save lives in a galaxy near you. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. To gauge the limits of a locust’s vision, scientists have been studying the electrical activity of a neuron located behind the insect’s eyes while it watches the Star Wars movie. Dr. Claire Rind at the University of New Castle upon Tyne has been studying locust vision for 15 years.

“We got information about the vision by making a recording from the neuron in the locust as it watched Star Wars. And we used a very small electrode, rather like an acupuncturist’s needle. And the neuron is so large that you can pick up the electrical activity from that simple recording situation.”

ambience: neuron pops

We’re listening to an excited locust neuron. This particular neuron releases more energy when a locust sees objects coming right at it on a direct collision course. Well now, rather than throwing things at a locust to get its neurons to respond, Dr. Rind simulated the effect by having the insects watch Star Wars battle scenes, while she measured the electrical impulses within the locust’s neurons. The more that neuron is excited, the more energy it releases, measured in what Dr. Rind calls “action potentials”.

“Spaceships flying over the locust, no response. It’s only when the Darth Vader’s fighter comes straight for the locust that the response of many, many action potentials being fired by the neuron is there.”

We’ll hear more about locust vision, and how it could be used to save human lives, in future programs.

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by The National Science Foundation.

music: Star Wars theme

Locusts: Star Wars

Blockbuster movie plays neuroscience lab: "Action potentials" soar!!
Air Date:08/06/2004
Scientist:
Transcript:


music: Star Wars theme, locust neuron emissions

Well these days, it's not only Jedi knights who are taking the force seriously. It turns out that a team of British scientists are using Star Wars as part of an experiment that tests a insect's response to visual stimuli. And yes, it may one day help save lives in a galaxy near you. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. To gauge the limits of a locust's vision, scientists have been studying the electrical activity of a neuron located behind the insect's eyes while it watches the Star Wars movie. Dr. Claire Rind at the University of New Castle upon Tyne has been studying locust vision for 15 years.

"We got information about the vision by making a recording from the neuron in the locust as it watched Star Wars. And we used a very small electrode, rather like an acupuncturist's needle. And the neuron is so large that you can pick up the electrical activity from that simple recording situation."

ambience: neuron pops

We're listening to an excited locust neuron. This particular neuron releases more energy when a locust sees objects coming right at it on a direct collision course. Well now, rather than throwing things at a locust to get its neurons to respond, Dr. Rind simulated the effect by having the insects watch Star Wars battle scenes, while she measured the electrical impulses within the locust's neurons. The more that neuron is excited, the more energy it releases, measured in what Dr. Rind calls "action potentials".

"Spaceships flying over the locust, no response. It's only when the Darth Vader’s fighter comes straight for the locust that the response of many, many action potentials being fired by the neuron is there."

We'll hear more about locust vision, and how it could be used to save human lives, in future programs.

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by The National Science Foundation.

music: Star Wars theme