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STUDY OBJECTIVES: Multiple lines of evidence indicate that sleep is important for the developing brain, although little is known about which cellular and molecular pathways are affected. Thus, the aim of this study was to determine whether the early adult life of Drosophila, which is associated with high amounts of sleep and critical periods of brain plasticity, could be used as a model to identify developmental processes that require sleep. SUBJECTS: Wild type Canton-S Drosophila melanogaster. DESIGN; INTERVENTION: Flies were sleep deprived on their first full day of adult life and allowed to recover undisturbed for at least 3 days. The animals were then tested for short-term memory and response-inhibition using aversive phototaxis suppression (APS). Components of dopamine signaling were further evaluated using mRNA profiling, immunohistochemistry, and pharmacological treatments. MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS: Flies exposed to acute sleep deprivation on their first day of life showed impairments in short-term memory and response inhibition that persisted for at least 6 days. These impairments in adult performance were reversed by dopamine agonists, suggesting that the deficits were a consequence of reduced dopamine signaling. However, sleep deprivation did not impact dopaminergic neurons as measured by their number or by the levels of dopamine, pale (tyrosine hydroxylase), dopadecarboxylase, and the Dopamine transporter. However, dopamine pathways were impacted as measured by increased transcript levels of the dopamine receptors D2R and dDA1. Importantly, blocking signaling through the dDA1 receptor in animals that were sleep deprived during their critical developmental window prevented subsequent adult learning impairments. CONCLUSIONS: These data indicate that sleep plays an important and phylogenetically conserved role in the developing brain.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





137 - 146


Sleep deprivation, development, dopamine, learning, ontogeny, Age Factors, Animals, Behavior, Animal, Brain, Dopamine Agonists, Drosophila melanogaster, Female, Learning Disabilities, Male, Memory, Short-Term, Receptors, Dopamine, Sleep Deprivation, Time