The Use of Drosophila to Understand Psychostimulant Responses

Travis James Philyaw, Adrian Rothenfluh, Iris Titos

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The addictive properties of psychostimulants such as cocaine, amphetamine, metham-phetamine, and methylphenidate are based on their ability to increase dopaminergic neurotransmission in the reward system. While cocaine and methamphetamine are predominately used recreationally, amphetamine and methylphenidate also work as effective therapeutics to treat symptoms of disorders including attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although both the addictive properties of psychostimulant drugs and their therapeutic efficacy are influenced by genetic variation, very few genes that regulate these processes in humans have been identified. This is largely due to population heterogeneity which entails a requirement for large samples. Drosophila melanogaster exhibits similar psychostimulant responses to humans, a high degree of gene conservation, and allow performance of behavioral assays in a large population. Additionally, amphetamine and methylphenidate reduce impairments in fly models of ADHD-like behavior. Therefore, Drosophila represents an ideal translational model organism to tackle the genetic components underlying the effects of psychostimulants. Here, we break down the many assays that reliably quantify the effects of cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, and methylphenidate in Drosophila. We also discuss how Drosophila is an efficient and cost-effective model organism for identifying novel candidate genes and molecular mechanisms involved in the behavioral responses to psychostimulant drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • ADHD
  • ASD
  • Addiction
  • Cocaine
  • Drosophila
  • Gene discovery
  • Genetics
  • Methamphetamine
  • Psychostimulant response
  • SUD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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