Amita Sehgal

Why we need to sleep: Insights from a small animal model

Amita Sehgal, PhD

John Herr Musser Professor of Neuroscience, Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute & Director of the Chronobiology and Sleep Institute (CSI)
University of Pennsylvania, United States

Keynote Summary: The function of sleep remains a mystery. There is universal agreement that lack of sleep impairs performance, especially cognitive ability, during waking hours and considerable evidence supports adverse effects of sleep loss on other physiological parameters as well. Thus, sleep may be regarded as important for waking function. However, what happens during sleep to facilitate wake performance and promote health? Some studies posit that replay of wake experiences in specific brain regions during sleep helps in memory consolidation, but it is likely that sleep affects fundamental physiology on a brain-wide and perhaps even body-wide level. Ongoing research seeks to address this question by investigating cellular and molecular processes impacted by sleep.

Biosketch: Amita Sehgal is the John Herr Musser Professor of Neuroscience, Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Director of the Chronobiology and Sleep Institute (CSI) at the University of Pennsylvania and currently President of the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms. Sehgal received her Ph.D. from the Weill Graduate School of Cornell University and conducted her postdoctoral work at Rockefeller University. She has made fundamental contributions towards our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that generate endogenous circadian rhythms and also the genetic mechanisms and functions of sleep.

Sehgal has served on many national/international committees, including the Sloan, McKnight and Leon Levy Neuroscience panels, the advisory council at NINDS (NIH), advisory boards of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (Gottingen), the Life Sciences Institute in Beijing, the Picower Institute (MIT), the neuroscience programs at the Morehouse School of Medicine and the Carney Institute for Neuroscience (Brown University), and the editorial boards of eLife, The Journal of Clinical Investigation, The Journal of Neuroscience, Current Opinion in Neurobiology and The Journal of Biological Rhythms. Sehgal has also received many awards and honors, including the Outstanding Scientific Achievement award from the Sleep Research Society, the Javits Investigator award from NINDS (NIH), the Michael Brown and Stanley Cohen Research awards at Penn and the Switzer Prize from UCLA. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences USA.