A computational method to quantify fly circadian activity

Andrey Lazopulo, Sheyum Syed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In most animals and plants, circadian clocks orchestrate behavioral and molecular processes and synchronize them to the daily light-dark cycle. Fundamental mechanisms that underlie this temporal control are widely studied using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. In flies, the clock is typically studied by analyzing multiday locomotor recording. Such a recording shows a complex bimodal pattern with two peaks of activity: a morning peak that happens around dawn, and an evening peak that happens around dusk. These two peaks together form a waveform that is very different from sinusoidal oscillations observed in clock genes, suggesting that mechanisms in addition to the clock have profound effects in producing the observed patterns in behavioral data. Here we provide instructions on using a recently developed computational method that mathematically describes temporal patterns in fly activity. The method fits activity data with a model waveform that consists of four exponential terms and nine independent parameters that fully describe the shape and size of the morning and evening peaks of activity. The extracted parameters can help elucidate the kinetic mechanisms of substrates that underlie the commonly observed bimodal activity patterns in fly locomotor rhythms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere55977
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number128
StatePublished - Oct 28 2017


  • Behavior
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Clock
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Issue 128
  • Locomotion
  • Mathematical model
  • Power spectrum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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