Janie Ondracek

Start Year: 2019
Starting Institution: Technical University of Munich
Project Title: The Emergence of Sleeping Brain Dynamics throughout Evolution and Development

Sleep is a behavior that occupies one-third of our lives, yet there is still no consensus about its purpose. One view, well supported by data, is that sleep benefits memory: synchronous neural activity that occurs during sleep is thought to enable the transfer of information across the brain. These synchronizing events, or sharp wave-ripples (ShWRs), have been recorded in every mammal examined to date, including humans.

Recent work in reptiles and birds has also established the presence of ShWRs during sleep, and such findings highlight a large set of open questions: what are the neural components required for the emergence of sleep-related, synchronous brain activity? The presence (or absence) of such brain dynamics in amphibians could shed light on the ancestral underpinnings of sleep-related brain dynamics for all tetrapods.

The developing brain provides a unique landscape to investigate the emergence of brain dynamics as a function of changing neuro-architectures. Amphibians undergo developmental metamorphosis, making them fascinating candidates for developmental sleep research. Similarly, chickens have been long-standing models for neural development, and advances in ex ovo technologies allow unparalleled access into developing avian brains. At the MBL, I will use a comparative approach to explore brain dynamics during sleep in amphibians and embryonic chickens to investigate the emergent patterns of synchronous neural activity during development.