Navigation Links
Brain tweak lets sleep-deprived flies stay sharp
Date:7/31/2008

St. Louis, July 31, 2008 Staying awake slows down our brains, scientists have long recognized. Mental performance is at its peak after sleep but inevitably trends downward throughout the day, and sleep deprivation only worsens these effects.

For the first time, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found a way to stop this downward slide. When scientists genetically tweaked a part of the brain involved in learning and memory in fruit flies, the flies were unimpaired even after being deprived of sleep.

"The ultimate goal is to find new ways to help people like the armed forces and first responders stay alert and on top of things when they have to be awake for extended periods of time," says Shaw. "We have drugs now that can keep people awake, but they're addictive and lose their effectiveness with repeated use. This research should help us find methods for maintaining mental acuity that have more specific effects, are less addictive and retain their potency."

The results appear in Current Biology on Aug. 5.

Shaw's lab was the first to show that fruit flies enter a state of inactivity comparable to sleep. They demonstrated that the flies have periods of inactivity where greater stimulation is required to rouse them. These periods begin at night; like human sleep they are cyclic over the course of the night, with sleep cycles lasting 20-25 minutes. Also like humans, flies deprived of sleep one day will try to make up for the lost time by sleeping more the next day, a phenomenon referred to as increased sleep drive or sleep debt.

For the new study, first author Laurent Seugnet, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow, revealed that sleep deprivation impairs learning in flies. Seugnet put them through multiple runs of a maze with two options: one lighted vial with the bitter-tasting quinine in it and one darkened but quinine-free vial. Flies are instinctively drawn to light, but they want to avoid the unpleasant taste of quinine.

"This tests the flies' mental capacity in two ways: First, they've got to remember that the lighted vial is the one that has quinine in it, and then they've got to suppress their natural instinct to fly toward the light," says Seugnet.

Flies allowed normal sleep learned to avoid the lighted vial, but sleep-deprived flies did not.

A brain messenger known as dopamine is linked to some of the mental capabilities harmed by sleep loss. Researchers decided to test if this messenger could be used to block learning impairment in sleep-deprived flies. Seugnet genetically altered a line of flies so they made more copies of a dopamine receptor in brain regions known as the mushroom bodies. These areas are roughly equivalent to the human hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory.

Sleep-deprived flies with extra dopamine receptors could still learn as if they had a full night's sleep, Seugnet found.

"Using this gene and other related genes, we may be able to find better ways to boost performance for someone like a relief worker who's had to stay awake for six straight days trying to save people trapped by an earthquake," Shaw says.

"I want to emphasize, though, that this type of treatment would just be for people who absolutely have to stay awake," he adds. "It's not about trying to cram too many hours in your dayeveryone else should just suck it up and get a good night's sleep."

Shaw is currently examining the role of related genes in sleep and learning. He is also testing whether sleep deprivation in young flies impairs brain development.


'/>"/>

Contact: Michael C. Purdy
purdym@wustl.edu
314-286-0122
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. New study shows compounds from soy affect brain and reproductive development
2. Obesity predisposition traced to the brains reward system
3. N.Y. research team discovers how antidepressants and cocaine interact with brain cell targets
4. Antimicrobial sutures reduce infections in brain shunt surgery, study finds
5. Adult stem cells activated in mammalian brain
6. Scientists demonstrate means of reducing Alzheimers-like plaques in fly brain
7. Cross fire from the brain makes patients tremble
8. Scientists learn how food affects the brain
9. Big brains arose twice in higher primates
10. Researchers reveal types of genes necessary for brain development
11. Following traumatic brain injury, balanced nutrition saves lives
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/24/2016)... Ampronix facilitates superior patient care by providing unparalleled technology to leaders of the medical ... premium product recently added to the range of products distributed by Ampronix. ... ... ... Ampronix News ...
(Date:5/12/2016)... , May 12, 2016 WearablesResearch.com ... just published the overview results from the Q1 wave ... the recent wave was consumers, receptivity to a program ... data with a health insurance company. "We ... to share," says Michael LaColla , CEO of ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... , April 28, 2016 Infosys ... (NYSE: INFY ), and Samsung SDS, a global ... that will provide end customers with a more secure, fast ...      (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130122/589162 ) , ... but it also plays a fundamental part in enabling and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... TOKYO , June 24, 2016  Regular discussions on ... to take place between the two entities said Poloz. ... in Ottawa , he pointed to the ... and the federal government. ... Poloz said, "Both institutions have common economic goals, why not ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 2016 , ... UAS LifeSciences, one of the leading manufacturers ... Probiotics, into Target stores nationwide. The company, which has been manufacturing high quality ... list of well-respected retailers. This list includes such fine stores as Whole Foods, ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Charm Sciences, Inc. is ... has received AOAC Research Institute approval 061601. , “This is another AOAC-RI approval ... Bob Salter, Vice President of Regulatory and Industrial Affairs. “The Peel Plate methods ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... , ... STACS DNA Inc., the sample tracking software company, today announced that ... joined STACS DNA as a Field Application Specialist. , “I am thrilled that ... of STACS DNA. “In further expanding our capacity as a scientific integrator, Hays brings ...
Breaking Biology Technology: