Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2017

Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Neuroscience


Psychological Sciences


Dr. Divya Sitaraman, Ph.D.


The human brain is an extremely complex organ with approximately 100 billion different neurons that are constantly sending and receiving messages. These messages are sent using the chemical messengers of the brain: neurotransmitters and neuromodulators. Mechanisms of neural control of sleep are substantially conserved across species. Evidence from multiple animal models including flies, zebrafish, and mice shows that the arousal, or wake phase, is regulated by conserved neuromodulators such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Since these neurotransmitter systems are distributed throughout the brain and sub-serve many functions in addition to sleep, the precise circuit mechanisms by which these neurotransmitters regulate sleep remain unknown in any organism. Because of their genetic tractability and mechanistic similarity of sleep to humans, we used Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) to study sleep behavior. Our data show that dopamine neurons are critical in controlling sleep behavior and that modification of neurons expressing the dopamine receptor leads to sleep deficits. In addition to analyzing these experimental data, we will also examine the current research regarding established sleep disorders that have a strong dopamine component.