Oregon Health & Science
University and Veterans Affairs Portland Health Care System,
Portland, Oregon, USA
Title: "Early life sleep and brain development: Lessons from the prairie vole about autism"
Monday, September 26th, 2022 @ 11:00
“Seminar Room 1”, FORTH’s bldg
Host: K. Sidiropoulou
Sleep is important for brain development, and disrupted sleep early in life is common in developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder. Autistic individuals have difficulty engaging in complex social behaviors. By studying the wild prairie vole, a highly social monogamous rodent, our previous work has shown that early life sleep disruption during a sensitive developmental window results in impaired social bonding between voles in a manner reminiscent of autism (Jones et al 2019 – Science Advances). However, it was previously unknown exactly how poor sleep impacted brain circuits to cause these impairments. To address this gap, we recently showed that early life sleep disruption caused increased dendritic spine density and alterations in synaptic structure within the prefrontal cortex, a late-maturing brain region important for social bonding (Jones et al 2021 – Current Research in Neurobiology). Ongoing work will examine the functional electrophysiological correlates of these structural dendritic changes in relation to aberrant social behavior in real-time. These data advance the hypothesis that one possible function of early life sleep is to ensure the proper development and tuning of neural circuits related to social behavior, and that sleep could represent a modifiable target in the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorder.