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I have a thing for lamps, but until now I’d never considered adding one to my collection that in its illumination is a 3D printed map relaying scientific data from a fruit fly brain. While delighted at the thought of trying to explain this to someone admiring it in my living room, I am not so sure about pulling it off as a DIY project. That, however, was a ‘no-brainer’ for Nicolas Aimon, who wanted to make a tangible display of his sister’s findings, as well as get his hands on the new FormLabs 3D printer in his MIT research lab.

Nicolas Aimon, post-doctoral associate at MIT, found the research his sister Sophie was doing on fruit fly brains to be illuminating — so much so that he wanted to put her scientific data in lights, literally. While not at work in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering where they research new materials, device architectures and bottom-up fabrication methods for memory, logic, and photonic devices, Aimon set his sights on taking his sister’s scientific data from the computer screen to a 3D model.

Sophie Aimon, post-doctoral associate studying at Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind at UC San Diego at the research laboratory of Professor Ralph Greenspan, was studying networks in the brains of fruit flies to figure out how interactions in the brain, in general, are coordinated and bound together ‘to produce coherent percepts and action.’ They chose to test their ideas on the brains of fruit flies because they are small and established enough for using genetically encoded calcium sensors which offer wide, efficient samples of data where they can figure out what is going on in the brain all at once.

And how would a fruit fly brain even remotely correlate with the human brain? According to the study Ms. Aimon participated in, you would be quite surprised. In the study, the researchers point out that drosophila melanogaster and other invertebrates are similar to vertebrate embryos in early nervous system gene expression, continuing later, and also including the structure of the cortex.

To read more and view the video, click here.