A common brain chemical is enough to keep a fruit fly up at night. Scientists know that the chemical, a neurotransmitter called GABA, is important for the human sleep cycle. But a new study is the first to show the chemical also controls whether a Drosophila melanogaster nods off or tosses and turns all night.
The research, published in the March Nature Neuroscience, shows that a receptor for GABA controls whether fruit flies fall asleep, just as it does in humans. But the receptor, found in cells that control wakefulness, doesn't influence whether the fruit flies stay asleep or determine how long they slumber, says Leslie Griffith, a neuroscientist at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.