Institution: Wellesley College, Wellesley Massachusetts
Abstract: 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.