Tiny Dragonfly Backpacks Reveal Mysteries of the Brain
Scientists are wiring the insects to better understand how motion is controlled.
The fruit flies aren't research subjects. They're food. Leonardo studies how dragonflies catch their prey on the wing. To do that, he and his colleagues are working on a new invention: a backpack that can record from a dragonfly's nerve cells while it's chasing a fruit fly.
Leonardo works at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which funds scientists like him fully so they don't have to spend time applying for grants or mentoring students. Many are at universities, but Leonardo works at HHMI's research facility, Janelia Farm, in Ashburn, Virginia.
The fruit flies and dragonflies live in a dragonfly flight arena—really, that's what the sign by the door says. It's a brightly lit room kept toasty and humid. To make the dragonflies