Screensavers of the Brain: The Science of Dreaming

Screensavers of the Brain: The Science of Dreaming

Each night, you place your head on your pillow, close your eyes, and, barring insomnia, you lose consciousness of the world around you, drifting into blissful oblivion.  Eventually, you reawaken, only to hallucinate in a paralyzed body.  These hallucinations are called dreams.  Why do dreams happen, and what function do they serve?  Although these are simple questions, the purpose of dreaming (and to a large extent, sleep itself) is far from understood.Continue reading

WIDE AWAKE at #SfN14

There’s always one person snoring through the talk you’re trying to listen to at SfN.  That person might even be you at some point during this meeting!  Whether you are sleepy because of the time change, or because you finished your poster at 3AM, or because you were up late catching up with friends and colleagues, sleep is an essential behavior that is regulated by two independent processes: (1) a circadian clock that regulates the timing of sleep, and (2) a homeostatic mechanism that influences the amount and depth of sleep.  Surprisingly, despite significant progress in our understanding of the molecular clock, the mechanisms by which the circadian clock regulates the timing of sleep is poorly understood.Continue reading

Sleep ‘til you’re Hungry. Eat ‘til you’re Sleepy. via Knowing Neurons

Sleep ‘til you’re Hungry. Eat ‘til you’re Sleepy.

Have you ever tried to go to sleep hungry?  Believe me, it doesn’t work.  You just end up lying in bed, listening to your stomach growl, and dreaming about your favorite foods.  Have you ever experienced a “food coma?”  Think back to last Thanksgiving when you ate so much that all you wanted to do afterwards was take a long nap.  Clearly, hunger and sleep are closely related.  But how?Continue reading

Sweet Dreams or Amyloid Nightmares by Knowing Neurons

Sweet Dreams or Amyloid Nightmares

Sleep deprivation has become a badge of honor in our modern society.  Competitions break out in coffee shop lines over who is functioning on the least number of Zzzzzs and living the most fast-paced life.  Bragging rights come with ordering the eye-opener with a triple shot of espresso.  Close our eyes and we risk missing a culturally shocking tweet or a groundbreaking news update.  We know that not getting enough sleep can impair our memory, make us a hazard at the wheel, and contribute to anxiety, but according to recent research, sleep impairments may also contribute to amyloid plaque build-up in the brain and our risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.Continue reading

From Turkey Comas To New Disease Treatments

Crystallography

Neurodegenerative disorders, like Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s disease, are devastating.  As you can imagine, witnessing the slow and progressive loss of a loved one’s mental and emotional states is an extremely painful and heartbreaking experience.  Currently, there are no cures for neurodegenerative diseases, and the drugs that are available only alleviate symptoms, without slowing the progression of the disease.Continue reading

Disruption of Circadian Cycles Linked to Weight Gain

Every night during finals week, I studied into the wee hours of the morning and caught only a few hours of sleep. It was exhausting! After finals were over, I felt like a heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulders, but I also felt a few pounds heavier! Sure, late night studying was paired with late dinners and snacks, but the weight came so quickly and was incredibly difficult to lose. What happened? I blamed my overly self-conscious analysis and the high calorie foods. Now, researchers at Vanderbilt suggest another cause: disruption of the sleep-awake cycle!Continue reading