Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Origins of Sleep

Developmental origins of sleep patterns

16 May 2022

Origins of Sleep

What is something we do every day but know surprisingly little about? Sleep! It's an essential process for our brain development and required for learning and memory. But what warrants a ‘normal’ sleeping pattern and what is disrupted in sleep disorders? The gene insomniac (inc) is known to impact sleep as mutations in that gene in fruit flies results in short sleep. But when inc begins to influence sleep was unknown as it's active in both the developing and adult fruit fly brain (pictured). By carefully controlling when inc was switched on during development, researchers pinpointed a specific period when inc influences sleep patterns as an adult. During this time in development, inc causes structural changes in the brain that disrupt neuronal circuits, specifically circuits that promote sleep when activated as an adult. Our sleep patterns change throughout our lives, but this suggests that these patterns including sleep disorders may have developmental origins.

Written by Sophie Arthur

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