Sleep and Performance Research Center
Stress, Memory and Sleep
WILLIAM M. VANDERHEYDEN, PH.D.
AREAS OF INTEREST
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Stress, Learning and Memory, Synaptic Plasticity, Neurobiology of Sleep
Nightmares and difficulty sleeping are hallmark features of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, the cause of sleep disruption following exposure to stress is currently unknown. Some evidence suggests that alterations in locus coeruleus nor-adrenergic cell firing may accompany the exposure to traumatic stress. Noradrenaline is a potent wake promoting neurotransmitter and its mis-regulation may be a contributing factor to the sleep difficulties and cognitive impairments associated with PTSD. The underlying neuro-circuitry and neurobiology associated with nor-adrenergic mis-regulation and the mechanism leading to the acquisition of PTSD is an avenue of active research. Lifetime prevalence rates of PTSD in military veterans range from 10-30% (depending on era of military deployment). However, with an additional 3.5% of non-military U.S. adults presenting with PTSD and at an annual estimated cost of 4-6 billion dollars per year, there is an immediate need to understand this massive public health problem.
The role of stress in altering the basics of sleep regulation.
Our research focuses on understanding the genetic, anatomical, and molecular regulation of sleep and cognitive function in response to stress. We utilize multiple model organisms, including the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, and rodents to understand how stress modulates sleep behaviors. The fruit fly is a powerful genetic model for studying the role of different genes in sleep regulation. Based on phylogeneticaly-conserved mechanisms of sleep, lessons learned from Drosophila can be translated to the rodent to further our understanding of the behavioral, anatomical, and electrophysiological mechanisms regulating sleep, cognitive performance, and the response to stress. Current studies are focused on understanding the contribution of inflammatory cytokines and neurotransmitters in regulating synaptic plasticity and synapse morphology.
- Behavior (Fear conditioning, Single Prolonged Stress)
- EEG/EMG Sleep Analysis
- Confocal microscopy
- Gene expression analysis (Northern blotting, in situ hybridization, qPCR, microarrays, RNAseq)
- Genetics, Genomics, Bioinformatics
- Immunohistochemistry, Western blot analysis