WORCESTER, Mass., June 15 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve isolated two fruit fly genes that together mediate the need to sleep and eat.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and New York University say their findings may lead to a better understanding of how the brain chooses between competing behaviors necessary for survival.
“This work determines part of the neural mechanism that mediates a conflict in a hungry fly’s brain in deciding whether to seek food or sleep,” said University of Massachusetts Associate Professor Scott Waddell. “It provides a foundation for understanding how the neural control of these two homeostatic behaviors is integrated in the brain.”
Previous research showed neural systems controlling sleep and feeding in mammals are interconnected — sleep deprivation promotes feeding, whereas starvation suppresses sleep. However, little was known about the genes responsible for that interaction.
But since the genes that make up the fruit fly’s internal clock have counterparts with similar functions in mammals, the scientists said their study can have implications for humans.
The findings showed a three-to-four-fold reduction in sleep in starved flies missing internal clock and cycle genes compared to flies possessing those genes. The findings therefore suggest both clock and cycle help the flies regulate sleep when they are food deprived.
The research appears in the early online edition of the journal Current Biology.
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