Sleeping with the Cavefishes

Sleeping with the Cavefishes

As a graduate student, I would give my right arm to be a fully functioning human being with little to no sleep. Alas, even Aristotle in 350 BCE observed a seemingly simple truth -- all animals sleep. Much to the frustration of sleep scientists, we still do not fully understand why we need sleep or why there is so much variation between species in sleep behavior. We are, however, beginning to gain an understanding of what may be regulating sleep and how it may have evolved over time, in some cases even making use of unusual model organisms such as Astyanax mexicanus, or the Mexican cavefish.

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New in Neuroscience: How do different mutations in the same gene contribute to different neurological disorders?

New in Neuroscience: How do different mutations in the same gene contribute to different neurological disorders?

Each year, approximately 61.5 million Americans are afflicted by a mental illness. Although we have not yet determined the underlying cause of these disorders, scientists believe that genetic mutations play a major role. Human genetic testing has identified multiple “risk genes” that are associated with major psychiatric disorders, but little is known about how mutations in the same risk gene can contribute to different disorders.

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All different and yet the same: searching for biological similarities between individuals with autism

“If you know one child with autism,” the saying goes, “you know one child with autism.” Though an estimated 1 in 68 children in the United States will be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), their diverse personalities seem to defy categorization. Yet, dating back to the first report on ASD by Austrian-American psychiatrist Leo Kanner, clinicians have identified clear themes in the children’s behavior. Researchers have long struggled to pinpoint the common biological pathway underlying these behavioral commonalities seen in ASD. A study published last year by Silvia De Rubeis and her colleagues took advantage of rare risk variants to find molecular commonalities that underlie the behavioral traits that link autism spectrum disorders together. 

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