Research Article

A Critical Period of Sleep for Development of Courtship Circuitry and Behavior in Drosophila

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Science  18 Apr 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6181, pp. 269-274
DOI: 10.1126/science.1250553

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Sleep Tight, Fly

Shortly after eclosion, young flies sleep a lot and are resistant to being woken. Several days later, the same flies sleep less and are more easily woken. Kayser et al. (p. 269) show that the different sleep pattern characteristic of youthful flies is critical to correct development of their brains. When sleep is disrupted in young flies, dopaminergic signaling is also disturbed and a glomerulus in the courtship behavior circuit does not develop properly, leading to inadequate courtship behavior and failure to reproduce.


Most animals sleep more early in life than in adulthood, but the function of early sleep is not known. Using Drosophila, we found that increased sleep in young flies was associated with an elevated arousal threshold and resistance to sleep deprivation. Excess sleep results from decreased inhibition of a sleep-promoting region by a specific dopaminergic circuit. Experimental hyperactivation of this circuit in young flies results in sleep loss and lasting deficits in adult courtship behaviors. These deficits are accompanied by impaired development of a single olfactory glomerulus, VA1v, which normally displays extensive sleep-dependent growth after eclosion. Our results demonstrate that sleep promotes normal brain development that gives rise to an adult behavior critical for species propagation and suggest that rapidly growing regions of the brain are most susceptible to sleep perturbations early in life.

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