Investigating sleep-dependent behavioral and neural development in young rodents and human infants

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.


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

Congratulations to Dr. Ryan Glanz, our latest newly minted PhD!

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

Jimmy Dooley, former postdoc, is a new assistant professor at Purdue University. Congratulations!

Congratulations to Alex Tiriac (PhD 2016) as he starts his new faculty position at Vanderbilt University!

Congratulations to Lex Gómez (PhD 2022) who has moved on to a postdoctoral position at Johns Hopkins University!

Key Reviews

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  

Twitching in sensorimotor development from sleeping rats to robots. Current Biology, 2013. pdf


Five science books we recommend

Videos of twitching across the animal kingdom