Quantitative imaging of sleep behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans and larval Drosophila melanogaster

Matthew A. Churgin, Milan Szuperak, Kristen C. Davis, David M. Raizen, Christopher Fang-Yen, Matthew S. Kayser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Sleep is nearly universal among animals, yet remains poorly understood. Recent work has leveraged simple model organisms, such as Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster larvae, to investigate the genetic and neural bases of sleep. However, manual methods of recording sleep behavior in these systems are labor intensive and low in throughput. To address these limitations, we developed methods for quantitative imaging of individual animals cultivated in custom microfabricated multiwell substrates, and used them to elucidate molecular mechanisms underlying sleep. Here, we describe the steps necessary to design, produce, and image these plates, as well as analyze the resulting behavioral data. We also describe approaches for experimentally manipulating sleep. Following these procedures, after ~2 h of experimental preparation, we are able to simultaneously image 24 C. elegans from the second larval stage to adult stages or 20 Drosophila larvae during the second instar life stage at a spatial resolution of 10 or 27 µm, respectively. Although this system has been optimized to measure activity and quiescence in Caenorhabditis larvae and adults and in Drosophila larvae, it can also be used to assess other behaviors over short or long periods. Moreover, with minor modifications, it can be adapted for the behavioral monitoring of a wide range of small animals.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Protocols
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jan 1


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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