Hey, everybody! These past few weeks have been so amazing and full of new friends, routines, and most importantly, flies. When I was asked to hone in on one question to explore as an independent experiment, my mind ran at a hundred miles an hour in all directions. I’m so excited about many different aspects of behavior/anatomy; how can I possibly focus onjust one thing?
After some soul searching, I finally decided upon a topic that would not only pique my interest, but help answer a question I’ve been asking for years. Do artificial food colorings cause hyperactivity in children?
After searching online, I found that this connection between colors and chaotic behaviors has never been concretely proven. A study by the University of Southampton in the UK tested the hypothesis on 300 children and found a connection between artificial colors and adverse behavior shown at school and home. Many countries in the European Union have taken this study seriously and pushed for colors to be removed from popular children’s foods. The United States, however, has not taken any strong action against food dyes. For example, popular candy “Starburst” is dyed artificially when sold in the US, but in Europe the candy contains only naturally derived dyes.
This stark contrast has inspired me to delve deeper into the controversy of artificial dyes and further study its effects on children’s behavior.
I cannot subject children to my scientific question, but I do have larvae at my disposal! I have set up some vials with a control versus a vial with Red #40 mixed in with the food. The level of dye was adjusted to match that of a 2-5 year old child’s maximum daily intake in the United States. When larvae are produced, I will test their memory and activity with a larval memory assay. This assay will allow me to see whether or not larvae can remember associations between scents and rewards. I can also set up a camera to quantify the larval activity levels and test for hyperactivity. Check back later for an update on my results!