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Decisions on the Fly: The applicability of diffusion models to decision making in Drosophila melanogaster

de Beer, Franciska (2019) Decisions on the Fly: The applicability of diffusion models to decision making in Drosophila melanogaster. Research Project 1 (minor thesis), Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences.


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The Drift Diffusion Model (DDM) describes the process of fast and binary human decision making as evidence accumulation over time until a threshold is reached. Although the DDM can describe a wide variety of human behaviours, there is still a lack of neural evidence for the mechanism that the model describes. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster might provide a solution as experimental tools available for this species would allow to causally manipulate the neural substrates of decision making. The first step in this approach is to verify whether the DDM can adequately describe decision making in D. melanogaster. Therefore, a courtship choice experiment was designed to generate D. melanogaster decision making data to which the DDM was applied, in order to assess whether the DDM would account for the data. The experiment consisted of two conditions: in the easy condition, a male fly had to decide whether to court a male or virgin female, whereas in the difficult condition, the male had to choose between a mated and virgin female. Since the DDM expects that evidence accumulates faster in easy than in difficult decisions, the male flies were hypothesized to respond fast and with high accuracy in the easy condition, and to respond slower and with low accuracy in the difficult condition. As hypothesized, males responded with higher accuracy in the easy than the difficult condition. Contrary to the hypothesis, responses were slower in the easy than in the difficult condition. Fitting the DDM to D. melanogaster data shows that the DDM might be able to D. melanogaster data. Thus, future research might further assess whether D. melanogaster is a suitable model organism to study the DDM and eventually investigate the neural mechanisms of decision making in D. melanogaster to test DDM predictions at the neural level.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Project 1 (minor thesis))
Supervisor name: Billeter, J.C.
Degree programme: Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences
Thesis type: Research Project 1 (minor thesis)
Language: English
Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2019
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2019 14:50

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