Weber Lab

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REM Sleep: Circuits, Functions, and Disorders

The discovery of REM sleep in 1953 by Aserinsky and Kleitman has completely changed our understanding of sleep: The existence of a sleep stage causing vivid dreams, eye movements, and wake-like brain activity suggested that sleep might be more than just a passive state with reduced neural and metabolic activity. Since then many theories have been proposed what functions REM sleep could serve: Memory consolidation, emotional processing, brain maturation etc. Clinical evidence suggests an important role of REM sleep in emotional regulation. The contents of REM-dreams are typically highly emotional and changes in REM sleep are symptomatic of affective disorders.
We are interested in understanding, what makes us repeatedly enter REM sleep throughout the night? What are the underlying neural and molecular mechanisms? And what are the neural underpinnings of the inter-relationship between REM sleep and our emotional well-being?

We study these questions in the mouse employing an inter-disciplinary approach including optogenetics, in vivo electrophysiology, calcium imaging, viral tracing, behavioral assays and computational modeling. 

Our lab is part of the Chronobiology Program at Penn. With its strong focus on sleep research arising from Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology and the Chronobiology Program, Penn offers an excellent environment for the inter-disciplinary study of sleep across multiple model organisms in health and disease.



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