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The tiny subject, nearly impossible to swat when loose, was stuck in wax inside a plastic tube with its head sticking out. Through a small hole in the back of its head, a microelectrode connected to an electronic amplifying system tapped into a central neuron that was funneling information from thousands of other neurons. Finding that one microscopic neuron was not the hard part. “The neuron doesn’t fire unless you have horizontal motion,” said physicist Ilya Nemenman, of Los Alamos National Laboratory. “After you connect the electrode to the amplifier and the speaker, you start inserting it with some levers into the fly brain while moving your hand from left to right.
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