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SCIENCE

Social Flies Shed Light on Sleep

A new view from European Space Agency's Mars Express shows the face is part of an unusual formation of mountains, valleys and landslide debris.
A new view from European Space Agency's Mars Express shows the face is part of an unusual formation of mountains, valleys and landslide debris. (Esa/dlr/fu Berlin (G. Neukum)/moc (Malin Space Science Systems))

Ever feel the need to get a couple of extra hours of sleep after a large family gathering? A contentious faculty meeting? A long evening in a singles bar?

Fruit flies know how you feel.

A study last week in the journal Science found that Drosophila fruit flies needed more sleep after spending time around a lot of other flies or learning something that produced a long-term memory.

Indrani Ganguly-Fitzgerald of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego and Jeff Donlea and Paul J. Shaw of Washington University in St. Louis kept fruit flies either alone or in groups of about 30 immediately after hatching. On Day 5, they watched the flies sleep.

The ones raised in isolation slept about 13 hours a day, while those from the "socially enriched" environment slept about 16 hours.

The reason for sleep isn't fully known, but there is some evidence it helps consolidate learning and memory in the brain. Other experiments these researchers did supported that theory.

They trained male fruit flies to perform a task as part of their courtship ritual. If the flies were deprived of sleep for four hours after the training, they forgot it. If they were allowed to sleep unperturbed for 24 hours and then deprived of sleep, however, they still remembered it.

-- David Brown

Social Flies Shed Light on Sleep

Ever feel the need to get a couple of extra hours of sleep after a large family gathering? A contentious faculty meeting? A long evening in a singles bar?

Fruit flies know how you feel.

A study last week in the journal Science found that Drosophila fruit flies needed more sleep after spending time around a lot of other flies or learning something that produced a long-term memory.

Indrani Ganguly-Fitzgerald of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego and Jeff Donlea and Paul J. Shaw of Washington University in St. Louis kept fruit flies either alone or in groups of about 30 immediately after hatching. On Day 5, they watched the flies sleep.

The ones raised in isolation slept about 13 hours a day, while those from the "socially enriched" environment slept about 16 hours.

The reason for sleep isn't fully known, but there is some evidence it helps consolidate learning and memory in the brain. Other experiments these researchers did supported that theory.

They trained male fruit flies to perform a task as part of their courtship ritual. If the flies were deprived of sleep for four hours after the training, they forgot it. If they were allowed to sleep unperturbed for 24 hours and then deprived of sleep, however, they still remembered it.

-- David Brown


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