Sleep Regulation & Function
Adequate sleep is necessary for physical and mental health. Chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders constitute a public health problem that impacts all segments of society. Chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders are associated with increased risk of hypertension, obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and other pathologies. Although important advances have been made, we know little of mechanisms whereby chronic insufficient sleep or sleep disorders leads to the aforementioned pathologies that pose such a public health burden. It is anticipated that this conference will be attended by a highly multidisciplinary group of researchers interested in addressing basic questions about the regulation and function of the ubiquitous phenomenon called sleep. During the past two decades we have witnessed a paradigm shift in the conceptualization of how sleep is regulated. Rather than the brain imposing sleep on the organism, this new paradigm views sleep as a homeostatically regulated, use-dependent process that first emerges at the level of simple neuronal networks. At the level of simple neuronal networks, sleep and wakefulness alternate, and in more complex organisms the alternation between sleep and wakefulness is regulated by neural structures and neuromodulatory pathways that orchestrate and synchronize local sleep processes. This key-characteristic clearly distinguishes sleep from circadian rhythmicity, which is a cell-autonomous and self-sustaining aspect of the temporal organization of biological systems. Within this recent conceptual framework, a research program has emerged in which investigators from many different backgrounds ask basic questions about the regulation and function of sleep at a local level as well as at the level of the whole organism. These investigators use a wide range of methodologies developed within the disciplines of molecular biology, genetics, systems biology, neuroscience, mathematical modeling and others.
There is now an urgent need to bring sleep researchers together in a meeting that allows presentations, discussion and exchange in an open, intimate and supportive environment. Existing sleep conferences do not provide such an environment because they are too big. Furthermore, existing sleep conferences are increasingly focused on clinical aspects of sleep, and in recent years have been dominated by sleep disorders medicine. Clinical sleep research and sleep disorders medicine are important, but they do not address basic questions about how the brain regulates sleep and what function(s) sleep serves for the organism. By gaining much needed insight into the regulatory mechanisms and neurobiological function(s) of sleep, we hope that the treatment of sleep disorders can progress beyond symptom management. For example, the discovery in dogs and mice that deficiencies in the hypocretin/orexin system cause cataplexy led to studies in humans that revealed narcolepsy is due to loss of hypocretin/orexin neurons. Such research findings suggest the potential for a cure for this sleep disorder.
The goals of the program are to delineate the research questions that emerge from the above mentioned paradigm shift, identify critical gaps in the currently available evidence, and highlight promising methodologies and model systems to further explore the regulation and function of sleep. A Gordon Research Conference, which emphasizes discussion, multidisciplinary interactions, and champions basic research, is ideal to help achieve these goals and shape the sleep research agenda.
What is a GRC? Gordon Research Conferences (GRC) are 5-day meetings that bring scientists together from around the world to present and discuss unpublished research with other leaders in their field.
This Gordon Research Conference (GRC) series is related to the "Sleep Regulation & Function" Gordon Research Seminar (GRS)
series. Although a related GRS will typically be scheduled in conjunction with its parent GRC each time it meets, that may not always be the case. Refer to the individual meetings in the Meeting History
section below for more details. For more information about the associated Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) series, click here
.What is a GRS? Gordon Research Seminars (GRS) are 2-day meetings that bring graduate students and post-docs together to discuss their cutting edge research among peers and mentors. Each GRS immediately precedes an associated Gordon Research Conference (GRC), and topics addressed at the GRS relate closely to the GRC.