If sleep doesn’t serve an absolutely vital function, it is the greatest mistake evolution ever made.
From yeast to primates, a period of physiological dormancy (sleep) is a predictable and inescapable phenomenon in nearly all organisms and humans have long pondered the purpose of this seemingly disadvantageous state. In this seminar, neurologist Dr. Michael Howell will discuss the complex relationship between sleep and the brain, and shed light on the evolution of sleep—its nature and its function.
In general, sleep serves different species in different ways and sleep’s function varies in accordance with a species’ developmental stage. Today, there are competing theories about the nature and function of sleep, including adaptive inactivity, synaptic homeostasis, processing of novel stimuli, reactivation of memory traces, and clearance of central nervous system (CNS) toxins. Each of these theories provides insight into neurological diseases and have implications for the development of new CNS therapies.
Regardless of the theory, Howell says, “… a combination of basic neuroscience, functional neuroimaging, and cognitive behavioral sciences are demonstrating that good sleep is critical for optimal brain function from birth to old age."
LearningLife seminars embrace Socrates's belief in inquiry and exchange. Seminars begin with a presentation by the instructor, which is followed by a period of critical discussion. Tuition includes continental breakfast.
Michael Howell, M.D., is an associate professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Neurology where he is a leading expert in the relationship between sleep and the brain. He is program director of the Clinical Sleep Medicine Fellowship at Hennepin County Medical Center and the University, and medical director of the Fairview Sleep Center, Edina.