What can software engineers learn from maggots?

Through understanding how complex learning processes in simple organisms work, scientists hope to usher in an era of self-learning robots and predictive computing.

The EU-funded MINIMAL project has focused on the learning processes in a relatively simple animal, the fruit fly larva (maggots). Despite having fewer than 10 000 neurons, this creature is capable of learning quickly and flexibly certain cues that lead them towards good things and away from bad things.

“Understanding the specific mechanisms behind this learning process could have important applications for technology, such as the development of self-learning small robotic devices,” explains MINIMAL project coordinator Professor Barbara Webb from the School of Informatics at Edinburgh University.