Welcome to the Diering Lab!

Sleep, Memory, Neuroscience

Lab Update: First Publications and New Grad Student!

We are proud to announce that this year we have had our first two publications, both a data paper and a review! Julia’s data paper collaborates with the Zylka Lab on a mouse model exhibiting mania- and anxiety-like behavior. Shenée and Sarah’s review paper addresses the roles of Homer1 and mGluR5 in sleep drive. They are both available via our publications page.

The Diering Lab also welcomes Sean Gay to our lab! Sean is a BBSP Student planning to become a fully-fledged member of the Neuroscience Department soon.

Winter Rotation Students

This rotation we are welcoming Brandon Le and Sean Gay to the lab! Brandon will be characterizing gene expression in the context of differential sleep phenotypes. He will be using total RNA seq as well as targeted qPCR of sleep implicated transcripts. Sean will be assessing the affects of anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol on sleep related protein expression. He will work in-vitro with cultured neurons.

Congratulations to our former research technician Bradley Allf for winning 1st place in The Society for Neuroscience 2018 Brain Awareness Video Contest! This video aims to showcase the synaptic homeostasis hypothesis in an accessible format. Many painstaking hours of stop motion animation went into these 5 minutes… enjoy!

BBSP Poster Session

The role of sleep in brain development, cognition, and disease

Last month the Diering Lab participated in our first poster session for BBSP graduate students. PhD candidates will be doing rotations in labs around the department, this poster was a quick overview of our lab’s focus and directions. See it hanging up in the 5th floor hallway of MBRB!

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.


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