What Makes Up Your Mind:
Of Mice & Men & Sleep,
with Dr. Luis de Lecea

November 2022

To sleep, perchance to….rejuvenate, heal, affect mental, emotional, behavioral, and physical wellbeing…and yes, dream? Unlocking the mystery of why we sleep and what we suffer when we do not is the mission of Dr. Luis de Lecea and his lab in the Stanford University Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. In this segment of What Makes Up Your Mind, you’ll hear about Dr. de Lecea’s discovery of a pair of neuropeptides in the hypothalamus which influence on sleep, wakefulness, stress, and reward. Called The Hypocretins, their discovery opened a new path of research into how these messengers signal sleep-related activities to the brain.

Dr. de Lecea and his team are following this path with vigor, aiming to uncover not only the connection between quality of sleep and wellness, but how manipulation of these specific neuropeptides might result in the treatment of mental and brain related illness. Imagine the implications!

Researchers already know that insomnia is a symptom of some conditions, and that poor sleep quality can make the symptoms of some illnesses worse. But, by understanding the exact mechanisms at work when the brain is at rest, or deprived of it, those mechanisms could be utilized to mitigate the impacts of everything from depression and anxiety to addiction, to autism, as well as illnesses like Parkinson’s.

Some of the questions Dr. de Lecea is working to answer more completely are likely some of the same questions you have about sleep:

  • Why do we sleep and why, at times, is it so difficult to get quality sleep?
  • Do all animals sleep?
  • Do our sleep patterns and what we need from sleep change as we age?
  • What do we risk, health-wise, when we don’t get the rest we need?
  • How can we optimize the sleep we do get?

Dr. de Lecea addresses all of these topics, and more, in this podcast, and shares his excitement about new developments on the horizon, including next generation sleep monitoring and therapeutics.

You’ll also learn why our small mice companions are so critical to Dr. de Lecea’s work and in what way we are very much like them! We owe them our gratitude for helping us understand ourselves better.

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