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Sleep and Performance Research Center

Chronobiology and Memory

Jason R. Gerstner, Ph.D.

AREAS OF INTEREST

Sleep, Circadian Rhythms, Learning and Memory, Synaptic Plasticity, Aging, Alzheimer’s disease

RESEARCH SCOPE

Circadian (~24 hour) rhythms drive many physiological processes, including a daily regulation of the sleep:wake cycle and cognitive performance. These rhythms are controlled by internal molecular networks (clocks) that persist even in the absence of external environmental cues. Disruption of the circadian rhythm and/or sleep:wake cycle, such as a result of shift-work, use of electronic devices during normal rest periods, or travel to different time-zones, has many physiological consequences, including decreased cognitive performance. Sleep:wake disturbance, or disruption of the circadian cycle, is observed in many psychiatric and affective disorders, along with neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s. Aging is also associated with more difficulty falling and staying asleep. Therefore, given the nature of our ever increasing 24-hour society and aging population, the scope of this research has significant public health relevance.

RESEARCH FOCUS

Integration of sleep, circadian rhythms and memory behavior
Our research focuses on phylogenetically conserved molecular mechanisms that govern and integrate circadian rhythms, sleep, and memory formation. Disruption of sleep or circadian rhythms are known to negatively affect cognitive performance, however, the underlying neurobiological cause of this remains enigmatic. Our studies use evolutionarily distant animal models, including mice and fruit flies, in order to identify common genetic and molecular pathways regulating these behaviors. These studies have uncovered novel mechanisms that shape morphological changes in a specific type of brain cell called an astrocyte. These astrocytes are traditionally known to support neurons metabolically, but more recently have been identified to play a much larger roles in regulating synaptic function and behavior. Current studies employ genetic manipulations in animal models to test how changes in the structure and function of astrocytes are able to alter chronobiology and memory behavior. The primary goal of these studies is to discover new mechanisms to serve as targets for treatment of psychiatric and neurodegenerative disease.

STAFF AND TRAINEES

Mr. Mark Klick, B.Sc. (Student Intern, Neuroscience)
Mr. John Koberstein, B.Sc. (Student Intern, Neuroscience)

APPROACHES USED

Gene expression analysis (Northern blotting, in situ hybridization, qPCR, microarrays, RNAseq)
Genetics, Genomics, Bioinformatics
Circadian rhythm and sleep neurophysiology and behavior
In vivo 2-photon microscopy
Calcium imaging
Astrocyte morphological analysis
Immunohistochemistry, Western blot analysis

PUBLICATIONS

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov