Ep. 10: Dr. Matt Kayser – Using Powerful Animal Models to Help Humans Sleep Better

What can we learn about human sleep from studying fruit flies? A lot more than you might think, as psychiatrist and researcher Matt Kayser explains this week.

Matt and his colleagues are deepening our understanding of what drives the profound changes in sleep patterns across development—for example, newborns sleep all the time (except when their parents want them to), college students become nocturnal, and aging adults struggle to sleep soundly. His research promises to reveal the pathways in the brain that drive these shifts, and the effects of poor sleep on the developing brain.

Matt and I discussed some of his recent research, as well as general principles in this area. Topics we covered included:

  • The striking similarities in sleep across most species
  • Why fruit flies are an especially good model for studying sleep
  • Why we sleep, given the obvious downsides
  • How and why sleep changes across development
  • Why sleep deprivation early in life may have long-lasting effects
  • The surprising advantages of spending less time in bed
  • Implications of poor sleep on the aging brain
  • The effects of mindfulness practice on insomnia

If you’re interested in the original research articles we discuss, you can find them through these links:

A Sleep State in Drosophila Larvae Required for Neural Stem Cell Proliferation

A Critical Period of Sleep for Development of Courtship Circuitry and Behavior in Drosophila

The study on amyloid beta with implications for Alzheimer’s Disease is still in the works.

Dr. Matt Kayser completed his MD and PhD at the University of Pennsylvania where his research focused on the development of synapses (the connections that allow nerve cells to communicate with each other) in mammals. He continued at Penn for his psychiatric residency and in a research postdoc with Dr. Amita Sehgal using Drosophila (fruit flies) to examine how neural circuits give rise to complex behaviors—particularly sleep and brain function. He is currently an assistant professor of psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and the creator and director of the Sleep Mental Health Clinic at Penn.

Learn more about Matt at his lab page: Kayser Lab.

To schedule an appointment in his Sleep Mental Health clinic, call 215-898-4301.

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