Does our brain need sleep? Yes, definitely. Or else you wouldn't learn. (True at least for learning parafoveal visual discrimination. Other types of memory are just enhanced by sleep.) But what are the mechanisms that mediate this effect? My current projects look into the relationship between sleep-related neuromodulator release and sleep-related memory induction. A special interest here lies in the actions of cholinergic and aminergic neuromodulation. Also, we investigate in how processes of long-term potentiation and depression at glutamatergic synapses take part in forming new memories during sleep.
Schmidt, C., Collette, F., Leclercq, Y., Sterpenich, V., Vandewalle, G., Berthomier, P., Berthomier, C., Phillips, C., Tinguely, G., Darsaud, A., Gais, S., Schabus, M., Desseilles, M., Dang-Vu, T.T., Salmon, E., Balteau, E., Degueldre, C., Luxen, A., Maquet, P., Cajochen, C., Peigneux, P. (2009) Homeostatic sleep pressure and responses to sustained attention in the suprachiasmatic area. Science, 324, 516-519.
Rasch, B., Gais, S., Born, J. (2009) Impaired off-line consolidation of motor memories after combined blockade of cholinergic receptors during REM sleep-rich sleep. Neuropsychopharmacology, 34, 1843-1853.
Dang-Vu, T. T., Schabus, M., Desseilles, M., Albouy, G., Boly, M., Darsaud, A., Gais, S., Rauchs, G., Sterpenich, V., Vandewalle, G., Carrier, J., Moonen, G., Balteau, E., Degueldre, C., Luxen, A., Phillips, C. & Maquet, P. (2008). Spontaneous neural activity during human slow wave sleep. PNAS, 105, 15160-15165.
Gais, S., Köster, S., Sprenger, A., Bethke, J., Heide, W., & Kimmig, H. (2008). Sleep is required for improving reaction times after training on a procedural visuo-motor task. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 90, 610-615.
Gais, S., Rasch, B., Wagner, U., & Born, J. (2008). Visual-procedural memory consolidation during sleep blocked by glutamatergic receptor antagonists. Journal of Neuroscience, 28, 253-263.