Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Learned helplessness in flies and the roots of depression

Date:
April 18, 2013
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
When faced with impossible circumstances beyond their control, animals, including humans, often hunker down as they develop sleep or eating disorders, ulcers, and other physical manifestations of depression. Now, researchers show that the same kind of thing happens to flies.

When faced with impossible circumstances beyond their control, animals, including humans, often hunker down as they develop sleep or eating disorders, ulcers, and other physical manifestations of depression. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 18 show that the same kind of thing happens to flies.
Credit: Current Biology, Yang et al.

When faced with impossible circumstances beyond their control, animals, including humans, often hunker down as they develop sleep or eating disorders, ulcers, and other physical manifestations of depression. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 18 show that the same kind of thing happens to flies.

The study is a step toward understanding the biological basis for depression and presents a new way for testing antidepressant drugs, the researchers say. The discovery of such symptoms in an insect shows that the roots of depression are very deep indeed.

"Depressions are so devastating because they go back to such a basic property of behavior," says Martin Heisenberg of the Rudolf Virchow Center in Würzburg, Germany.

Heisenberg says that the idea for the study came out of a lengthy discussion with a colleague about how to ask whether flies can feel fear. Franco Bertolucci, a coauthor on the study, had found that flies can rapidly learn to suppress innate behaviors, a phenomenon that is part of learned helplessness.

The researchers now show that flies experiencing uncomfortable levels of heat will walk to escape it. But if the flies realize that the heat is beyond their control and can't be avoided, they will stop responding, walking more slowly and taking longer and more frequent rests, as if they were "depressed."

Intriguingly, female flies slow down more under those stressful circumstances than males do. It's not clear exactly what that means, but Heisenberg explains, "if we realize that the fly trapped in a strange, dark box, unable to get rid of the dangerous heat pulses, has to find a compromise between saving energy and not missing any chance of escape, we can understand that such a compromise may come out differently for males and females, as their resources and goals in life are different."

Heisenberg's team now intends to explore other questions, such as: How long does the flies' depression-like state last? How does it affect other behaviors, like courtship and aggression? What is happening in their brain? And more.

Heisenberg says that the findings are a reminder of a lesson that children's books are often best at showing: "Animals have lots in common with us humans. They breathe the same air, share many of the same resources, actively explore space, and have distinct social roles. Their brains serve the same purpose, too: they help them to do the right thing."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Zhenghong Yang, Franco Bertolucci, Reinhard Wolf, Martin Heisenberg. Flies Cope with Uncontrollable Stress by Learned Helplessness. Current Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.03.054

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Learned helplessness in flies and the roots of depression." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418124858.htm>.
Cell Press. (2013, April 18). Learned helplessness in flies and the roots of depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418124858.htm
Cell Press. "Learned helplessness in flies and the roots of depression." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418124858.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) — Yale researchers tested 135 men and women, and it was only obese women who were deemed to have "impaired associative learning." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Does Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks Boost Urge To Drink?

Does Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks Boost Urge To Drink?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) — A new study suggests that mixing alcohol with energy drinks makes you want to keep the party going. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pot Cooking Class Teaches Responsible Eating

Pot Cooking Class Teaches Responsible Eating

AP (July 18, 2014) — Following the nationwide trend of eased restrictions on marijuana use, pot edibles are growing in popularity. One Boston-area cooking class is teaching people how to eat pot responsibly. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Understanding D.C.'s New Pot Laws

Understanding D.C.'s New Pot Laws

Newsy (July 17, 2014) — Washington D.C.'s new laws decriminalizing small amount of marijuana went into effect Thursday. Here's how they work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins