Presentation Title

Revealing Sleep's Hidden Functions

Format of Presentation

Poster to be presented the Friday of the conference

Abstract

There are two universally observed states of awareness found in all animal species studied up to date, awake and asleep. Wakefulness is characterized by a high arousal level in which the organism is aware of the environment, a state of consciousness in which an individual engages in coherent cognitive responses. In contrast, sleep is defined by a low level of awareness, a quiescent behavior with a reduced responsiveness in which most external inputs to the brain are excluded from neural processing. While the biological function of sleep remains obscure, it has been observed that sleep deprivation has severe consequences for health and well-being, up to and including death. Proposed sleep functions include energy conservation, repairing wear and tear in cellular machinery, removing chemical waste products produced during the waking hours and reinforcement of learning and memory consolidation.

This poster will review the literature to date and focus on recent works suggesting that sleep is required to detoxify the metabolic waste products that accumulate during the wake period. This neurotoxic waste clearance is thought to be done by cerebrospinal fluid transport via the glymphatic system. Recently, the restorative effects of sleep have been linked to the synaptic plasticity observed in learning and memory, the ability of synapses to strengthen or weaken over time in response to changes in their activity. The synaptic structural changes involve both gene expression linked to the formation of new synapses and the covalent modifications of preexisting synaptic machinery.

Department

Biological Sciences

Faculty Advisor

Don Nelson

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Revealing Sleep's Hidden Functions

There are two universally observed states of awareness found in all animal species studied up to date, awake and asleep. Wakefulness is characterized by a high arousal level in which the organism is aware of the environment, a state of consciousness in which an individual engages in coherent cognitive responses. In contrast, sleep is defined by a low level of awareness, a quiescent behavior with a reduced responsiveness in which most external inputs to the brain are excluded from neural processing. While the biological function of sleep remains obscure, it has been observed that sleep deprivation has severe consequences for health and well-being, up to and including death. Proposed sleep functions include energy conservation, repairing wear and tear in cellular machinery, removing chemical waste products produced during the waking hours and reinforcement of learning and memory consolidation.

This poster will review the literature to date and focus on recent works suggesting that sleep is required to detoxify the metabolic waste products that accumulate during the wake period. This neurotoxic waste clearance is thought to be done by cerebrospinal fluid transport via the glymphatic system. Recently, the restorative effects of sleep have been linked to the synaptic plasticity observed in learning and memory, the ability of synapses to strengthen or weaken over time in response to changes in their activity. The synaptic structural changes involve both gene expression linked to the formation of new synapses and the covalent modifications of preexisting synaptic machinery.