Investigating sleep-dependent development in rats and humans

Every animal must develop functional brain-behavior relations within the context of a growing body. Whereas such investigations typically focus on what happens during wake, we begin instead by noting that sleep predominates in early development. Thus, our research focuses on the development, neural mechanisms, and functions of sleep to understand why animals sleep so much more when they are young and what can go wrong when they don't. We embrace a developmental systems perspective that prioritizes the processes that shape developing animals. To gain a full appreciation for the questions we ask and the conceptual and methodological approaches we take, you may wish to read a review below or an empirical article, watch a research-related video, or read this Q&A.


Midha's recent paper in Current Biology written up in Iowa Now.

Our research featured in an article in The New Yorker.

Mark is interviewed for an article on the "riddle" of REM sleep in Medscape.

Mark is interviewed about animal instinct on an episode ("Basic Instinct") of the Unexplainable podcast on Vox. 

Mark is interviewed about sleep and dreams for The Atlantic and about "sleeping" jumping spiders for NPR's All Things Considered.

Key Reviews

Infant action and cognition: what's at stake? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2023. pdf

Protracted development of motor cortex constrains rich interpretations of infant cognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2023. pdf

Sleep, plasticity, and sensory neurodevelopment. Neuron, 2022. pdf

What is REM sleep? Current Biology, 2020. pdf

The developing brain revealed during sleep. Current Opinion in Physiology, 2020. pdf

Active sleep promotes functional connectivity in developing sensorimotor networks. BioEssays, 2018. pdf

Decomposing the evolution of sleep: Comparative and developmental approaches. In The Evolution of Nervous Systems, 2017. pdf

Development evolving: The origins and meanings of instinct. WIREs Cognitive Science, 2016. pdf  


Five science books we recommend

Videos of twitching across the animal kingdom