Though the title of this blog entry needs an explanation, today’s seminars, symposia, and poster viewings could be characterized as what my advisor would call sexy research; it’s salient, it’s novel, and it’s controversial. The day began with an invited lecture by Michael Menaker, a researcher in the field of circadian rhythms whose grant is currently competing with ours for challenge funding, so I won’t embellish. His lab is administering metamphetamines to mice with lesioned or damaged suprachiasmic nuclei. Under normal circumstances, animals with lesioned SCNs (side note: you should know what the SCN is and where it is neuroanatomically located by now) do not entrain to light:dark schedules, but rather demonstrate sporadic, intermittent activity across all circadian phases (subjective night and subjective day) of a 24 hour period. If the mice are administered metamphetamines, however, entrainment and robust patterns of activity are partially restored. In fact, the pseudo-recovering activity of these meta-juiced mice is comparable to patients with schizophrenia. The bottom line is that drugs markedly influence the entrainment capacities of the internal circadian timing system. Oh, he also talked about measuring circadian activity in lampreys. Apparently, lampreys are housed in plastic tubes that do not limit exploratory (if that is what it is called) behavior, and activity is measured via infrared sensors.
Following this invited lecture, I ventured to the poster sessions where I saw the most salient, novel, and controversial research in sleep medicine to date: “Spending, gambling, and being sexy: associated side-effects of treatment for restless legs syndrome.” The poster described unique side effects commonly observed in medicated patients with restless legs syndrome. In most cases, the medication is a dopamine agonist which mitigates leg tremors associated with the disorder (i.e. Jimmy legs). One of these side effects includes sexsomnia; having sex while asleep, but not remembering the event (side note: sleep walkers and even sleep drivers also don’t remember walking and driving around, scary!) RLS patients suffering from sexsomnia can crave sex multiple times during the night, and though, it may be a pleasurable experience for the respective partner at the moment, these patients are also repulsed about having sex otherwise.
The last lecture of sexy research was presented by my friend Jared’s lab mate. He assesses emotional valence, how perceptive people are to others emotions, in napping and non-napping individuals. He has found that individuals who nap during the day can more accurately recognize and identify other individuals’ emotions, especially if the nap includes REM sleep. This is also the same group (and Jared’s dissertation) who is discovering that afternoon napping greatly enhances memory consolidation.
Perhaps tomorrow will be even sexier. Until then, I’d stay away from the Mirapex.