Circadian Modulation of Short-Term Memory in Drosophila

Learn Mem. 2008 Dec 30;16(1):19-27. doi: 10.1101/lm.1146009. Print 2009 Jan.


Endogenous biological clocks are widespread regulators of behavior and physiology, allowing for a more efficient allocation of efforts and resources over the course of a day. The extent that different processes are regulated by circadian oscillators, however, is not fully understood. We investigated the role of the circadian clock on short-term associative memory formation using a negatively reinforced olfactory-learning paradigm in Drosophila melanogaster. We found that memory formation was regulated in a circadian manner. The peak performance in short-term memory (STM) occurred during the early subjective night with a twofold performance amplitude after a single pairing of conditioned and unconditioned stimuli. This rhythm in memory is eliminated in both timeless and period mutants and is absent during constant light conditions. Circadian gating of sensory perception does not appear to underlie the rhythm in short-term memory as evidenced by the nonrhythmic shock avoidance and olfactory avoidance behaviors. Moreover, central brain oscillators appear to be responsible for the modulation as cryptochrome mutants, in which the antennal circadian oscillators are nonfunctional, demonstrate robust circadian rhythms in short-term memory. Together these data suggest that central, rather than peripheral, circadian oscillators modulate the formation of short-term associative memory and not the perception of the stimuli.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Drosophila
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology