Although sleep consumes one-third of our lives and is a common feature among all animals, how the brain orchestrates sleep remains largely unexplained. To fill in this knowledge gap, Geoffrey Goodhill, PhD, professor of Developmental Biology and Neuroscience at Washington University School of Medicine, and colleagues will track each cell in the brain as it cycles between waking and sleep states. The goal is to identify the fundamental principles governing sleep at the whole-brain scale and how they are disrupted in sleep disorders.
This collaborative endeavor, led by the project’s principal investigator (PI) David Prober, PhD, professor of biology and biological engineering at Caltech, and co-PIs Goodhill and Thai Truong, PhD, assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Southern California, was recently awarded $3.2 million from the National Institutes of Health.
Larval zebrafish, with their small brains and transparent bodies, are an ideal system for studying neural activity. The researchers aim to monitor each of the 100,000 cells in the zebrafish brain simultaneously and over long periods of time using 2-photon selective plane illumination microscopy. In addition to tracking natural brain activity, they will also manipulate cellular functions to observe their effects on sleep.
The Goodhill Lab will spearhead the analyses of neuronal activity and the development of mathematical models that describe the biological features of sleep and waking states and the transitions between them. By watching every cell in the brain at once, the study will assemble a complete picture of how the brain integrates cellular and molecular signals from distinct neural circuits into a coordinated physiological state.