Restless leg syndrome model Drosophilia melanogaster show successful olfactory learning and 1-day retention of the acquired memory

Issue: 
2013
Institution: 
Wellesley College, Wellesley Massachusetts

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a prevalent but poorly understood disorder that is
characterized by uncontrollable movements during sleep, resulting in sleep disturbance.
Olfactory memory in Drosophila melanogaster has proven to be a useful tool for the study of
cognitive deficits caused by sleep disturbances, such as those seen in RLS. A recently generated
Drosophila model of RLS exhibited disturbed sleep patterns similar to those seen in humans with
RLS. This research seeks to improve understanding of the relationship between cognitive
functioning and sleep disturbances in a new model for RLS. Here, we tested learning and
memory in wild type and dBTBD9 mutant flies by Pavlovian olfactory conditioning, during
which a shock was paired with one of two odors. Flies were then placed in a T-maze with one
odor on either side, and successful associative learning was recorded when the flies chose the
side with the unpaired odor. We hypothesized that due to disrupted sleep patterns, dBTBD9
mutant flies would be unable to learn the shock-odor association. However, the current study
reports that the recently generated Drosophila model of RLS shows successful olfactory
learning, despite disturbed sleep patterns, with learning performance levels matching or better
than wild type flies.

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