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Sleep switch found in fruit flies
Date:6/23/2011

cts him," says first author Jeff Donlea, PhD, now a postdoctoral research assistant at Oxford University. "This is an ecologically relevant way to test memory because a male fly in the wild needs to quickly assess whether a particular female is interested in mating so that he doesn't waste time making unproductive advances."

The researchers used a training protocol that normally only creates a memory that lasts a few hours in fruit flies. After being "rejected" multiple times over three hours, the fly learns not to make advances when he encounters the altered male again at a later time. But when scientists used the cells in the dorsal fan-shaped body to put the fly to sleep immediately after training, the fly formed a long-term memory of his experience that lasted for at least several days.

To rule out the possibility that the increased excitability of the cells could be directly responsible for the long-term memory, scientists activated the sleep-regulating cells following training but prevented the flies from sleeping. The flies did not remember the training, indicating that sleep itself was important for the consolidation of memory.

Scientists have yet to determine whether a counterpart for the dorsal fan-shaped body exists in human brains. Shaw's lab is currently working to see if the cells they singled out can be matched to other brain cell types based on the chemical messengers they produce.


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

Page: 1 2

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