Sleep Gene Polymorphisms and Psychological Health: A Translational Approach

Grant Winners

  • Jaime L. Tartar, Ph.D. – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences
  • Aurelien Tartar, Ph.D. – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences
  • Ana I. Fins, Ph.D. – Center for Psychological Studies
  • Tatiana Viena, B.S. – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences
  • Alan Nguyen – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences

Deans

  • Don Rosenblum, Ph.D. – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences
  • Karen S. Grosby, Ed.D. – Center for Psychological Studies

Abstract

Award Winners

A large and growing body of research suggests that sleep loss results in changes to psychological health such as dysregulated emotional behavior, cognitive impairment, and psychopathology. Individuals with two common sleep disorders, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) and Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome (ASPS) are at particular risk of suffering from impairments related to sleep loss due to an internal (biological) day that is longer (DSPS) or shorter (ASPS) than 24 hours. This research program will focus on these two sleep disorders as well as a newly discovered biological sleep pattern (natural short sleepers, NSS) that is associated with reduced sleep need and improved psychological functioning. We aim to initiate a translational research approach that will look beyond the clinical manifestations of DSPS, ASPS and NSS to link these extreme sleep phenotypes with specific genetic polymorphisms and specific psychological impacts. In accordance with our translational approach, our team includes a molecular biologist, a behavioral neuroscientist and a clinical specialist. To our knowledge, no previous study has shown the link between sleep polymorphisms, circadian sleep disorders, and their association to the psychological well-being of individuals. Connecting behavioral with molecular information, as proposed here, could lead to a new generation of medications to treat insomnia, promote attention & vigilance, and possibly reduce the need for sleep. We have already initiated pilot work for this proposal which have confirmed our ability to explore the molecular basis of sleep patterns. In addition, the pilot study has involved two NSU students from the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, demonstrating our ability to use this proposed research project as a training vehicle and a unique platform for student education.