How nature, nurture shape the sleeping brain


Credit: Rusterholz et al., JNeurosci (2018)

Some patterns of electrical activity generated by the brain during sleep are inherited, according to a study of teenage twins published in JNeurosci. Pinpointing the relative contributions of biology and experience to sleep neurophysiology could inform therapies for numerous psychiatric disorders in which alterations in brain activity during sleep can be detected.

Leila Tarokh and colleagues used electroencephalography to measure the brain activity of 11- to 14-year-old pairs of identical and fraternal twins during two consecutive nights of sleep at home. This study design allowed the researchers to tease apart the influence of genetic and environmental factors on brain activity during sleep. They found both types of factors shape two patterns of activity — slow waves and spindles — that are crucial for core functions of sleep, including memory consolidation. The influence of genes and environment on this activity depended on the brain region in question, with frontal regions being under strong environmental control and regions toward the back of the brain under stronger genetic control.


Article: Nature and Nurture: Brain region specific inheritance of sleep neurophysiology in adolescence


Corresponding author: Leila Tarokh (University of Ber, Switzerland), [email protected]

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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