Brainpower

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This confocal image shows a type of neuron involved in sleep-awake behavior in fruit flies. The synapses of these neurons readily change shape in response to the flies’ social experiences and sleep-awake states. The lab of Toshihiro Kitamoto, PhD, University of Iowa associate professor of anesthesia and neurology, studies the role of a unique receptor for steroid hormones in controlling the activity and shape of these neurons and how such changes affect the flies’ behavior. This type of receptor also exists in humans but was only recently identified, and its function is not yet well understood. The fruit fly model can help investigators understand how the receptor affects activity of certain neurons or might play a role in modulating behavior.