Behavioural, morphological and electrophysiological studies of the interplay between learning and sleep during brain development, using learning paradigms, magnetic resonance imaging and high-density electroencephalography.
1 professor, 1 senior scientist, 6 PhD students, 1 technician
In adults, evidence is accumulating that sleep plays an important role in brain plasticity, i.e. the remodeling of neuronal connections in the brain after learning. Recently, the major electrophysiological marker of the homeostatic regulation of sleep – sleep slow wave activity (SWA, < 4 Hz; Borbély, 1982) – was shown to be closely related to such remodeling processes. The most dramatic remodeling of neuronal connections takes place during childhood. The formation and elimination of synaptic connections during development depend on neural activity which suggests an activity-dependent neural maturation. On the basis of the suggested role of sleep in regulating synaptic strength, we may hypothesize that sleep actively supports developmental processes in the young brain. This view is in line with the fact that sleep need is much higher in children than in adults. Furthermore, adolescence is accompanied by a dramatic 50% decline of sleep EEG activity in the SWA frequency range. This SWA decrease parallels the decline in synaptic density suggesting a functional relationship between sleep SWA and synaptic plasticity during brain development. The suggested relationship might also be of clinical interest because a large percentage of children suffer from sleep disorders and/or learning disabilities . Is there a direct link between sleep disorders and learning disabilities? To address this question we will examine the relationship between sleep and learning in children and adolescents.
Two human sleep recording units; 128-channel high-density EEG recording system; access to a 3 Tesla MRI imaging system; visuo-motor learning paradigm; Zurich neuromotor assessment battery; cognitive testing paradigms.
Access to long-term local field potential recording units for rodents.
Swiss National Science Foundation
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