Neuroscience: Sleep and Oscillations – Introductory Talk
David Raizen, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA

Sleep behavior is observed in animals ranging from the simple round worm to the complex human, yet the core function of sleep that drove its evolution remains a mystery. In addition, our understanding of sleep regulation is at its infancy. The two talks in this session focus on these two central question of sleep research: How is sleep regulated? And, what functions does sleep serve? Sleep is defined as a reversible behavioral state of episodic reduced responsiveness that is necessary for normal physiology. Necessity is manifested by homeostasis: increased sleep pressure following deprivation of sleep. The timing of sleep episodes is influenced by a biological clock, which in many species has an approximately 24-hour or circadian period. We know quite a bit about the mechanism of the circadian clock but little about other sleep-regulatory processes such the homeostatic process. Whereas the clock mechanism arises from interactions of genes and gene products within the same cell, sleep as a behavioral state is an emergent property of ensembles of neurons. Both in mammals and in invertebrates, sleep is marked by electrophysiological signatures, the most prominent of which is the oscillation of neuronal networks. Our symposium speakers discuss recent advances in our understanding of sleep regulation and function using approaches that range from molecular studies in fruit flies to cognitive studies in humans.

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