Spontaneous alternation: A potential gateway to spatial working memory in Drosophila

Sara A. Lewis, David C. Negelspach, Sevag Kaladchibachi, Stephen Leigh Cowen, Fabian Fernandez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Despite their ubiquity in biomedical research, Drosophila have yet to be widely employed as model organisms in psychology. Many complex human-like behaviors are observed in Drosophila, which exhibit elaborate displays of inter-male aggression and female courtship, self-medication with alcohol in response to stress, and even cultural transmission of social information. Here, we asked whether Drosophila can demonstrate behavioral indices of spatial working memory in a Y-maze, a classic test of memory function and novelty-seeking in rodents. Our data show that Drosophila, like rodents, alternate their visits among the three arms of a Y-maze and spontaneously favor entry into arms they have explored less recently versus ones they have just seen. These findings suggest that Drosophila possess some of the information-seeking and working memory facilities mammals depend on to navigate through space and might be relevant models for understanding human psychological phenomena such as curiosity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)230-235
Number of pages6
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
StatePublished - Jul 2017


  • Drosophila
  • Novelty seeking
  • Spatial memory
  • Spontaneous alternation
  • Y-maze

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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