The remote roots of consciousness in fruit-fly selective attention?

Bioessays. 2005 Mar;27(3):321-30. doi: 10.1002/bies.20195.


A mechanistic study of consciousness need not be confined to human complexity. Other animals also display key behaviors and responses that have long been intimately tied to the measure of consciousness in humans. Among them are some very well-defined and measurable endpoints: selective attention, sleep and general anesthesia. That these three variables associated with changes in consciousness might exist even in a fruit-fly does not necessarily imply that a fly is "conscious", but it does suggest that some of the problems central to the field of consciousness studies could be investigated in a model organism such as Drosophila melanogaster. Demonstrating suppression of unattended stimuli, which is central to attention studies in humans, is now possible in Drosophila by measuring neural correlates of visual selection. By combining such studies with an eventual understanding of suppression in other arousal states in the fly, such as sleep and general anesthesia, we might be unraveling mechanisms relevant to consciousness as well.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, General
  • Animals
  • Arousal
  • Attention*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Consciousness*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Sleep
  • Visual Perception