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Brain Region Linked To Fly Slumber

Date:
June 12, 2006
Source:
Northwestern University
Summary:
Researchers at Northwestern University have pinpointed a brain area in flies that is crucial to sleep, raising interesting speculation over the purpose of sleep and its possible link with learning and memory. The scientists show that the so-called mushroom bodies are essential for sleep regulation in the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster. How the mushroom bodies control sleep is uncertain, but the researchers show that if the area is destroyed chemically, flies sleep less.

Ravi Allada, M.D.
Credit: Image courtesy of Northwestern University

Researchers at Northwestern University have pinpointed a brain area in flies that is crucial to sleep, raising interesting speculation over the purpose of sleep and its possible link with learning and memory.

In a paper to be published June 8 by the journal Nature, a team led by Ravi Allada, assistant professor of neurobiology and physiology, shows that the so-called mushroom bodies are essential for sleep regulation in the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster. (In the same issue, a second study, led by Amita Sehgal of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, produced similar results using different methods.)

How the mushroom bodies control sleep is uncertain, but Allada and colleagues show that if the area is destroyed chemically, flies sleep less.

Mushroom bodies are known to have a role in learning and memory, raising the possibility that sleep and learning are somehow linked in the fly brain. This lends weight to the notion that, in flies, sleep may function to consolidate memories that are formed during the day -- something that is known to occur in vertebrates.

Sleeping flies are similar to sleeping humans. Both are groggy when woken suddenly and need extra slumber if sleep deprived. It's therefore possible, the authors argue, that a mechanism regulating both sleep and learning could be evolutionarily conserved. So studying the mushroom bodies may help to throw light on the mechanisms governing vertebrate and invertebrate sleep.

In addition to Allada, other authors on the Nature paper are Jena L. Pitman (co-first author), Jermaine J. McGill and Kevin P. Keegan, all from Northwestern University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northwestern University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Northwestern University. "Brain Region Linked To Fly Slumber." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 June 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060612082835.htm>.
Northwestern University. (2006, June 12). Brain Region Linked To Fly Slumber. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060612082835.htm
Northwestern University. "Brain Region Linked To Fly Slumber." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060612082835.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

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