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Fruit Flies Help Human Sleep Research

Chiara Cirelli, M.D., Ph.D.

Chiara Cirelli, M.D., Ph.D.,
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Photo courtesy of NIGMS

Neuroscientist Chiara Cirelli uses experimental fruit flies to study sleep. Although it may be tough to imagine a fly snoozing, these rice grain-sized animals sleep about 12 hours every night.

When they sleep, flies are completely still and only loud noises or other disturbances wake them. Like us, a jolt of caffeine keeps them awake.

Also like us, without enough sleep, flies feel the effects of sleep deprivation. Cirelli has shown that they are a good model for researching human sleep. She has found fruit fly genes that seem to have a powerful effect on sleep.

In time, her research could lead to new clues about the causes of sleep disorders and some forms of mental illness.

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To learn more about NIGMS and basic medical research, visit

Cirelli's research with fruit flies may help answer the question: Why is sleep so important for good health?

Read More "Building Blocks of Medical Research" Articles
Discovery for Health / Behind the Curtain / Fruit Flies Help Human Sleep Research / NIGMS's Living Labs

Summer 2007 Issue: Volume 2 Number 3 Page 23