Monitoring and Analyzing Drosophila Circadian Locomotor Activity
In the 1970s, the intriguing discovery of autonomous circadian rhythmicity at the behavioral level in Drosophila set the starting point for one of the most remarkably rapid advancements in the understanding of the genetic and molecular bases of a complex behavioral trait. To this end, the design of appropriate electronic devices, apt to continuously monitor behavioral activity, has proven to be fundamental to such progress. In particular, most of the mutational screens performed to date in the search for genes involved in circadian rhythmicity were based on monitoring Drosophila mutants for alterations in the circadian pattern of locomotor activity. Many different experimental paradigms, based on the use of circadian locomotor activity monitors, have been developed. Experiments can be designed to determine (1) the natural period, (2) the capacity to adapt to day-night cycles with photoperiods of differing length, and (3) the phase of the circadian activity cycles with respect to the entraining stimulus. Here we describe some of the rationale and the steps required to set up experiments to monitor circadian locomotor activity in Drosophila. Suggestions for the statistical analysis of the data obtained in such experiments are also provided.
Key WordsDrosophila locomotor activity circadian rhythms spectral analysis CLEAN Python open source actograms period phase infrared emitter
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