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Research Projects

Our current research projects include:

  • Evolution of Sleep Book Project
    The purpose of this book is to synthesize recent advances in our understanding of the evolutionary origins of sleep and its adaptive function and to lay the groundwork for future evolutionary research by assessing sleep patterns in the major animal lineages. The edited volume will consist of a collection of essays from the world’s foremost experts on the phylogeny, biology and expression of sleep states in a broad range of animal species from insects to mammals. This book will initiate a fundamental re-thinking of the role of sleep in organismal biology, deepen our understanding of the functions of sleep, and point to major new approaches for treatment of sleep disorders. The author guidelines and other important information for contributors can be found by clicking on the above link 'Evolution of Sleep Book Project'.
  • Developing a Web-accessible Comparative Database on Mammalian and Avian Sleep
    A major outcome of our research will be the production of a large-scale comparative database containing a variety of REM and NREM sleep measures, as well as relevant physiological, neuroanatomical, ecological and life history variables. The databases will be openly available for others to use via this website. The main focus of data collection will be on mammals, but we will also establish a comparative database on bird sleep, allowing us to compare distinct correlates of REM and NREM sleep in these two classes of homeotherms.
  • Conducting Allometric and Descriptive Comparative Analyses
    We will begin our analysis with a series of comparative investigations designed to investigate the allometric scaling of sleep quotas and grade shifts across relevant phylogenetic groups. We will then be able to address basic questions such as: What are the major trends in REM vs. NREM sleep in mammalian evolution? Are sleep quotas (percent of total sleep time spent in a particular sleep state such as REM or slow wave sleep) and related characteristics phylogenetically clustered in particular taxa? Do traits correlated with active (REM) sleep have different functions than those correlated with quiet (NREM) sleep? How do REM and NREM sleep parameters scale with body mass (allometry) in the major mammalian lineages?
  • Testing Existing Hypotheses on the Differing Functions of active/REM versus quiet non-REM Sleep
    Which ecological, social, neuroanatomical, physiological and life history factors account for variation in REM and NREM measures across species, as based on a priori hypotheses derived from previous sleep research? A great deal of recent experimental sleep research is concerned with putative mnemonic and learning functions of sleep.
  • Testing New Hypotheses that postulate different functions for active/REM versus quiet non-REM Sleep
    Hypotheses postulating distinct functions for REM and NREM make specific predictions about their evolutionary correlates. We will investigate patterns of REM/NREM quota variation in relation to disease risk, parent-offspring conflict, and unihemispheric sleep.
  • Developing a Cost-Benefit Model of Sleep States
    Development of a cost-benefit model of sleep will allow us to derive clinical implications of perturbations in sleep durations of the two sleep states that typically occur in major human sleep disorders. How do costs of sleep constrain the restorative function of sleep states? Are there distinctive costs and benefits associated with each of the two major sleep states (REM and NREM)? If so, do species without REM more effectively manage REM-related costs but lose REM-related benefits? Our comparative results will form the basis for a model of the costs and benefits of sleep, eventually encompassing differential functions of REM and NREM sleep more broadly.
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Phylogeny of Sleep | February 13, 2009

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