Advances in sleep research

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Serotonin promotes sleep in fruit flies, acting on a specific region of their brain.

According to an article published in ScienceDaily dated June 6, 2006, a group of researchers has discovered that the neurotransmitter serotonin, in addition to influencing the numerous behaviors already known, also seems to improve the duration and quality of sleep in the drosophila melanogaster or fly of the fruit.
Researchers Quan Yuan, William Joiner and Amita Sehgal of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine reported their finding in the June 6 issue of Current Biology.

Despite being a key element in the lives of most animals, proper sleep regulation remains a largely unknown process.
The fruit fly is considered a very useful model for sleep-related research due to its simple nervous system, which allows researchers to ask basic questions about sleep function and regulation that would be difficult to reach in systems more complex like those of mammals.

Using this fly as a model, the researchers showed that a drug treatment with serotonin increases both the quantity and quality of sleep, even in the case of some mutant flies that normally sleep less or have fragmented sleep, suggesting that this treatment could overcome some deficits caused by other sleep problems.

The researchers also identified a serotonin receptor that influences sleep, acting on a specific region of the fly's brain known as mushroom bodies (MB). Interestingly, MB are necessary for learning and memory in flies. Considering that memory consolidation is one of the supposed functions of sleep and that serotonin is known to be involved in learning and memory in other animals, it is possible that the effect of serotonin in sleep is related to its role in learning and memory processes.

Source: Science Daily

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