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Fly aggression involves complicated gene networks

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Trudy Mackay and Robert AnholtRoger Winstead photoTrudy MacKay and Robert Anholt in the N.C. State University fly lab.

Fruit fly aggression is correlated with smaller brain parts, involves complex interactions between networks of important genes, and often cannot be controlled with mood-altering drugs like lithium.

Those are the results of a painstaking study conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University and colleagues in Belgium who are trying to discover what happens in the genes and brains of hyper-aggressive flies and how that differs from what takes place in more passive fly cousins. Hyper-aggressive fruit flies box, albeit without the gloves.

Aggressive flies have smaller brain portions and aren’t necessarily soothed by mood-altering drugs.

Dr. Trudy Mackay, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished University Professor of Genetics and a co-lead author of a paper published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that the findings in the fruit fly could one day lead to helping humans – think of Alzheimer’s patients who suddenly become more aggressive – by providing a framework of how complex gene interactions affect behavior. Fruit flies are model organisms for studying genes and traits like aggression.

Read more from Mick Kulikowski of N.C. State University News Services.

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