[Cyborg] the nose knows

Tomm tomm.fire at gmail.com
Fri Feb 18 20:07:26 UTC 2011

Who knew that drosphilia (and perhaps humans) might be able to perform 
vibrational spectroscopy in their nose?

"They're checking to see if Drosophila (fruit flies) can tell the 
difference between deuterated and non-deuterated compounds. The idea 
here is that the size and shape of the two forms are identical; there 
should be no way to smell the difference. But it appears that the flies 
can: they discriminate, in varying ways, between deuterated forms of 
acetophenone, octanol, and benzaldehyde. Deuterated acetophenone, for 
example, turns out to be aversive to fruit flies (whereas the normal 
form is attractive), and the aversive quality goes up as you move from 
d-3 to d-5 and d-8 forms of the isotopically labeled compound.

The flies could also be trained, by a conditioned avoidance protocol, to 
discriminate between all of the isotopic pairs. Most interestingly, if 
trained to avoid a particular normal or deutero form of one compound, 
they responded similarly when presented with a novel pair, which seems 
to indicate that they pick up a "deuterated" scent effect that overlays 
several chemical classes."

(deuterated means replacing all of the hydrogens in the molecule with 
the heavy form of hydrogen, deuterium, which has two neutrons instead of 
one neutron).

A less technical article is here:

and some background on the theory:


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