Sleep, Memory, Neuroscience

Author: Bradley Allf

Carolina Union

Mouse House

Flashing GIF of mouse house sign by Sarah Monroe

Welcome to the Mouse House! Our brand-new, upscale mouse hotel has 32 private suites available spread out across four floors in scenic Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Stay with us and you’ll receive 24/7 room service featuring a mouth-watering menu of rodent pellets, manzanita stick chews for all your malocclusion-prevention needs, and a design-it-yourself nesting kit with only the softest nestlets and crinkle paper on the market!

Ok, so it’s not really a hotel… But we are  so excited that our mouse satellite facility is finally complete!  This facility will allow us to monitor the sleep behavior of up to 32 mice at a time through the non-invasive PiezoSleep system, which uses vibration strength and frequency to score whether or not a mouse is sleeping.

Image of mouse cages in the "Mouse House"

Through this system, we hope to better understand how sleep phenotypes differ in various mouse strains. We are particularly interested in learning more about the sleep phenotypes of mouse models of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and at what stage in development these mice begin to exhibit sleep disturbances. Understanding this will shed light on how  a lack of sleep may be contributing to symptoms of ASD, and how best to develop novel therapeutics to treat ASD by targeting sleep.

Dissecting out Neuroanatomy

Last week, Graham got the lab together for some hands-on neuroanatomy.

Graham using microscope

Cortices, hippocampi, and striata  were separated out from our samples. We’ll use these brain regions to better understand how mutations to Shank proteins in the brain affect neural processes and may contribute to symptoms of Autism spectrum disorders.

Shenee using microscope

The Three Pillars of Human Health

When people think about healthy lifestyles, the topics that most often come to mind are diet and exercise. And for good reason. Getting good nutrition and maintaining an active lifestyle are important predictors of longevity and quality of life, and have been shown to lower disease risk. But increasingly, researchers are recognizing a third, equally important, “Pillar” of human health– sleep.

Image of the Three Pillars of Human Health

Image by Sarah Monroe.

Compared to diet and exercise, our culture undervalues the health benefits of sleep. While eating junk food and lounging on the couch all weekend have become social faux pas, not getting enough sleep is often neutrally accepted as a routine part of work or school, or even something to take pride in as proof of one’s dedication to their professional life. According to Russell Sanna, Executive Director of the Harvard Medical School’s division on sleep medicine, “Sleep is the enemy of capitalism,” since you can’t produce or consume while you sleep.

Yet by neglecting sleep, our culture is missing out on a host of health benefits. Our lab studies how a lack of sleep may exacerbate all sorts of conditions– from Autism spectrum disorder to Alzheimer’s disease.  By better understanding the health benefits of sleep, we hope to contribute to large-scale conversation about health priorities.


Lab Update

The lab is very excited to announce that Shenee’ Martin is joining the Diering Lab as our first graduate student! Shenee’ will be studying neurodegenerative disorders, particularly Alzheimer’s Disease.

In other news, Sarah designed a sleepy mouse mascot for the lab! Name requests welcome.

Sleepy Mouse