Isolation of fruit flies led to overeating and lack of sleep

Isolation of fruit flies led to overeating and lack of sleep
Isolation of fruit flies led to overeating and lack of sleep

American biologists have studied the effect of social isolation on flies and have identified neurons that “survive” loneliness, stimulating hunger and disrupting sleep.


The widespread introduction of quarantines and "social isolation" to contain the Covid-19 pandemic is forcing scientists to take a closer look at the impact of loneliness on behavior and health. And this influence is noticeable not only in humans, but even in such "primitive" animals as insects. Experiments conducted by biologists from Rockefeller University have shown that after a week of isolation, Drosophila begin to eat more of the required amount, and sleep less. Scientists write about this in an article published in the journal Nature.

It is worth noting that fruit flies are social insects, they live and forage in groups and sleep together - on average 16 hours a day, including a long night's sleep and a short daytime sleep. Professor Michael Young's team decided to test how they would respond to the various quarantine conditions. The flies were isolated for a week in small groups of different sizes, up to individual pairs, without any significant effects. However, if Drosophila was isolated and alone, there was a lack of sleep and overeating.

The authors determined that peptidergic (P2-) neurons associated with the regulation of physiological processes are responsible for changes in behavior. The suppression of their activity led to the restoration of normal sleep and nutrition even in socially deprived fruit flies. Artificial stimulation of P2 neurons produced these effects in flies after a day in isolation, but had no effect on fruit flies that remained in the collective. "P2 neurons seem to be associated with the perception of the duration of social isolation, the degree of loneliness," says one of the authors of the work, Wanhe Li, "like a timer that counts down how many flies were left alone."

A similar response to isolation - overeating and lack of sleep - is common in many animals. The reasons are not exactly known. Scientists speculate that this may be a response to increased stress in a state of uncertainty about the future. The animal separated from its brothers reacts to this, preparing for new adversities and trials and trying to eat in advance. At the same time, anxiety reduces the duration and quality of sleep.

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