Washington: A new study suggests that fruit flies "think" before they act.
The study by researchers from the University of Oxford`s Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour showed that fruit flies take longer to make more difficult decisions.
In experiments asking fruit flies to distinguish between ever closer concentrations of an odour, the researchers found that the flies don`t act instinctively or impulsively. Instead they appear to accumulate information before committing to a choice.
Gathering information before making a decision has been considered a sign of higher intelligence, like that shown by primates and humans.
"Freedom of action from automatic impulses is considered a hallmark of cognition or intelligence ," Professor Gero Miesenbock, in whose laboratory the new research was performed, said.
"What our findings show is that fruit flies have a surprising mental capacity that has previously been unrecognized," Miesenbock said.
The researchers also showed that the gene FoxP, active in a small set of around 200 neurons, is involved in the decision-making process in the fruit fly brain.
The findings are published in the journal Science.