How deeply does your mutant sleep? Probing arousal to better understand sleep defects in Drosophila

R. Faville, B. Kottler, G. J. Goodhill, P. J. Shaw, B. Van Swinderen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


The fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster, has become a critical model system for investigating sleep functions. Most studies use duration of inactivity to measure sleep. However, a defining criterion for sleep is decreased behavioral responsiveness to stimuli. Here we introduce the Drosophila ARousal Tracking system (DART), an integrated platform for efficiently tracking and probing arousal levels in animals. This video-based platform delivers positional and locomotion data, behavioral responsiveness to stimuli, sleep intensity measures, and homeostatic regulation effects - all in one combined system. We show how insight into dynamically changing arousal thresholds is crucial for any sleep study in flies. We first find that arousal probing uncovers different sleep intensity profiles among related genetic background strains previously assumed to have equivalent sleep patterns. We then show how sleep duration and sleep intensity can be uncoupled, with distinct manipulations of dopamine function producing opposite effects on sleep duration but similar sleep intensity defects. We conclude by providing a multi-dimensional assessment of combined arousal and locomotion metrics in the mutant and background strains. Our approach opens the door for deeper insights into mechanisms of sleep regulation and provides a new method for investigating the role of different genetic manipulations in controlling sleep and arousal.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8454
JournalScientific reports
StatePublished - Feb 13 2015


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