The Department of Biomedicine

BBB seminar: Chiara Cirelli and Guilio Tononi

Sleep and synaptic homeostasis

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Chiara Cirelli and Guilio Tononi
Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA

Sleep must serve an essential, universal function, one that offsets the risk of being disconnected from the environment and the opportunity cost of not engaging in other behaviors. The synaptic homeostasis hypothesis (SHY) of sleep function proposes that the fundamental function of sleep is the restoration of synaptic homeostasis, which is typically challenged by synaptic strengthening triggered by learning during wake, as well as by synaptogenesis during development. In other words, sleep is “the price we pay for plasticity”. According to SHY, by renormalizing synaptic strength down to an acceptable baseline, sleep restores various functions at the level of the individual cell, including energy metabolism. Moreover, it helps consolidating, integrating, and acquiring new memories at the systems level. Thus, SHY reconciles the brain restoration and memory hypotheses of sleep function.

Chairperson: Clive R. Bramham, Department of Biomedicine