Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

A high-throughput system for continuous analysis of feeding behaviors in Drosophila

Technology #5987

Understanding the physiology and regulation of feeding behavior in animals is essential for addressing biomedical problems such as obesity and feeding disorders. Feeding is a complex integration of internal and external stimuli that leads to the activation of an organized sequence of motor patterns in animals. Model systems such as Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) have been employed extensively to understand the mechanism behind several biological processes over the past few decades. To understand the neuronal and molecular mechanisms that regulate feeding behavior in Drosophila several methods that analyze the response to food ingestion, volume of food ingested in a single meal, food stored in the crop and defecation rate have been employed. Current methods that measure feeding and related behaviors in Drosophila allow researchers to study only a small sample population at a given time and are labor intensive. These methods also lack dynamic and real-time monitoring of food intake, clarity in depicting food preference and ability to distinguish between feeding and tasting events. An easy to use, high-throughput and continuous monitoring system is therefore required for analyzing feeding behavior in Drosophila.

A high-throughput system for continuous analysis of feeding behaviors in Drosophila

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed an easy-to-use high-throughput Fly Liquid-food Interaction Counter (FLIC), which is a complete system/device composed of both hardware and software capable of analyzing feeding behavior in fruit flies. The system has the ability to monitor individual fruit flies for over 24hrs and collect data continuously with millisecond resolution from several hundred flies simultaneously. It is the only system capable of detecting both tasting and feeding events and can perform temporal analysis of food preference and feeding data. When a fly tastes or drinks food an electrical analog signal is generated which is detected by a microcontroller and processed in real-time using an in-house software which displays the feeding habits of each individual fly over time. The software efficiently differentiates tasting and feeding events, determines food preference and details numerous other behaviors.


  • Research in Drosophila feeding activity, appetite regulation, circadian behavior and preference development
  • Potential research in Drosophila learning and memory, addiction and aversive behavior
  • Behavioral analysis in other insects besides Drosophila
  • In combination with other advanced molecular techniques to facilitate mechanistic studies of feeding behaviors in Drosophila
  • In combination with genetic tools available in Drosophila to address creative questions that will bring important insights into neuronal and molecular mechanisms regulating feeding decisions. As well as, Potential implications in predicting feeding behaviors in higher organisms.


  • Ability to perform high-throughput analysis of feeding behaviors in flies
  • Continuous temporal analysis of feeding data (not possible with current methods)
  • Analysis of individual flies (very low signal-to-noise ratio with current methods, essentially infeasible)
  • Ability to measure and distinguish both tasting and feeding events (not possible with current methods)
  • Easier to set up and use than current methods
  • Less variability than current methods
  • Ability to identify intermediate preference for food types with high clarity in preference assays