Genomic, Behavioral and Engineering approaches towards an understanding of sleep, and its role in maintaining health and well-being

02/21/2020 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s): 
Dr. Bruce O'Hara

Affiliation: University of Kentucky



Abstract: Sleep is conserved across all birds and mammals, and perhaps all animals, and yet its primary functions and reason for existence are still unclear.  We still cannot answer the simple question of why we sleep at all.  A major bottleneck in understanding sleep is the time and cost involved with EEG/EMG analysis (the gold standard for sleep in birds and mammals).  Therefore, my lab has spent the past twenty years developing a simple, noninvasive alternative using sensitive piezoelectric films, which has allowed for large scale genomic studies, more efficient drug screens, and the testing of sleep in a wide variety of rodent models for human disease.  Although we do not know the central functions of sleep very well, we now know that it strongly impacts almost all diseases including infections, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzhiemer’s, and essentially every disease examined thus far.  Sufficient sleep is also critical for optimal performance and our sense of well-being.  Even a modest reduction of sleep from 7hrs/night to 5hrs/night reduces the average person’s performance to that of someone who is legally “drunk”.  Sleep traits, like almost all traits, are complex, and the specific alleles of specific genes that influence these traits in people and in mice have been difficult to determine.  However, we and other labs have begun to find patterns and pathways that may shed light on the most critical processes.  Sleep appears to serve many different functions that impact health and disease, a few of which are beginning to be understood, and will be highlighted in this talk.

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