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Physics and Astronomy

Physics & Astronomy Colloquium

3:30 PM, Friday, October 24, 2008
Room 155, Chem-Phys Building

Dr. Dan Hooper
Theoretical Astrophysics Group
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

Molecular, Behavioral, and Engineering approaches towards an understanding of Sleep
My research addresses questions related to sleep and circadian rhythms. The research ranges from molecular and genetic approaches to behavioral studies. Great progress has been made recently in understanding fundamental aspects of circadian rhythms, but many aspects of sleep are poorly understood. Although sleep occupies approximately one third of our lives, we still cannot answer the basic question of why we sleep. It is likely that sleep has more than one function since virtually all birds and mammals have two very different kinds of sleep - Rapid-Eye-Movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. In addition to fundamental questions, sleep is also of great medical and societal importance. Sleep disturbances afflict approximately 75 million people in the United States alone. We are using a variety of approaches to better understand sleep and wake, including genetic studies of mice that are revealing some of the key molecules we believe are central to the restorative aspects of sleep. A major limitation in all studies of sleep in mice, or any mammal, is the difficulty of performing EEG/EMG analyses. In mice, this requires extensive surgery, recovery, cabling of animals, and considerable time for signal analyses. Therefore, we developed a non-invasive, high-throughput a lternative using a piezoelectric film attached to the floor of a mouse cage, and then developed signal processing algorithms to score sleep and wake in real time. This work is being done in collaboration with Prof. Kevin Donohue in Engineering. We are also studying whether meditation might provide some of the restoration we normally associate with sleep. We are using a well-validated psychomotor vigilance test that accurately reflects underlying sleepiness. Preliminary data thus far suggests meditation can indeed boost performance, and in a way that appears to compensate or pay back sleep debt. Among the many questions this raises, is whether the very different 8-9Hz EEG waves dominant during meditation can perform any of the functions normally done by 1-4Hz slow waves during non-REM sleep.

Refreshments will be served in CP 155 at 3:15 PM