The fly liquid-food electroshock assay (FLEA) suggests opposite roles for neuropeptide F in avoidance of bitterness and shock

Puskar Mishra, Shany E. Yang, Austin B. Montgomery, Addison R. Reed, Aylin R. Rodan, Adrian Rothenfluh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Proper regulation of feeding is important for an organism’s well-being and survival and involves a motivational component directing the search for food. Dissecting the molecular and neural mechanisms of motivated feeding behavior requires assays that allow quantification of both motivation and food intake. Measurements of motivated behavior usually involve assessing physical effort or overcoming an aversive stimulus. Food intake in Drosophila can be determined in a number of ways, including by measuring the time a fly’s proboscis interacts with a food source associated with an electrical current in the fly liquid-food interaction counter (FLIC). Here, we show that electrical current flowing through flies during this interaction is aversive, and we describe a modified assay to measure motivation in Drosophila. Results: Food intake is reduced during the interaction with FLIC when the electrical current is turned on, which provides a confounding variable in studies of motivated behavior. Based on the FLIC, we engineer a novel assay, the fly liquid-food electroshock assay (FLEA), which allows for current adjustments for each feeding well. Using the FLEA, we show that both external incentives and internal motivational state can serve as drivers for flies to overcome higher current (electric shock) to obtain superior food. Unlike similar assays in which bitterness is the aversive stimulus for the fly to overcome, we show that current perception is not discounted as flies become more food-deprived. Finally, we use genetically manipulated flies to show that neuropeptide F, an orthologue of mammalian NPY previously implicated in regulation of feeding motivation, is required for sensory processing of electrical current. Conclusion: The FLEA is therefore a novel assay to accurately measure incentive motivation in Drosophila. Using the FLEA, we also show that neuropeptide F is required for proper perception or processing of an electroshock, a novel function for this neuropeptide involved in the processing of external and internal stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number31
JournalBMC Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Structural Biology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Plant Science
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'The fly liquid-food electroshock assay (FLEA) suggests opposite roles for neuropeptide F in avoidance of bitterness and shock'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this