How and Why We Sleep: Insights from a Small Animal Model

  • Speaker
  • Portraits of Amita Sehgal for the 2017 HHMI Investigator Portrait Refresh. ( Jeff Fusco /HHMI)Amita Sehgal, Ph.D.Musser Professor of Neuroscience and HHMI Investigator
    Director, Chronobiology and Sleep Institute (CSI)
    Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
Date & Time


Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium
160 5th Ave
New York, NY 10010 United States

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5:30 p.m. Doors open

6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Lecture and Q&A

This lecture is part of “The Neuroscience of Sleep,” the 2023 lecture series theme in neuroscience and autism science. All animals need to sleep; it is essential to health and well-being, with many disease states disrupting sleep. Yet, despite its importance, the fundamental biological reasons and mechanisms for sleep remain poorly understood. This set of talks will explore the state of sleep science, including the mechanisms that initiate sleep, what happens in the brain during sleep, what happens when sleep is disordered and why sleep is necessary.

2023 Lecture Series Themes

Biology: Microbiomes

Neuroscience and Autism Science: The Neuroscience of Sleep

Physics: The Third Quantum Revolution

Mathematics and Computer Science: Waves

About Simons Foundation Presidential Lectures

Simons Foundation Presidential Lectures are free public colloquia centered on four main themes: Biology, Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Neuroscience and Autism Science. These curated, high-level scientific talks feature leading scientists and mathematicians and are intended to foster discourse and drive discovery among the broader NYC-area research community. We invite those interested in the topic to join us for this weekly lecture series.

The need to catch some z’s is common throughout the animal kingdom, from blue whales to fruit flies. Yet, despite its prevalence and importance, sleep’s cause and purpose remain largely a mystery.

In this lecture, Amita Sehgal will describe her group’s research investigating the biology of sleep. In particular, she will discuss recent studies of fruit flies that have helped elucidate why sleep persists across so many different species despite continued evolution. In addition, her research using genetic screens has led to the identification of sleep genes, and her analysis of mutants, coupled with hypothesis-driven approaches, has provided clues to sleep’s cellular functions. A cross-disciplinary approach, she says, is critical to unraveling this biological mystery.

About the Speaker

Portraits of Amita Sehgal for the 2017 HHMI Investigator Portrait Refresh. ( Jeff Fusco /HHMI)

Sehgal is the John Herr Musser Professor of Neuroscience, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and director of the Chronobiology and Sleep Institute (CSI) at the University of Pennsylvania. Sehgal received her Ph.D. from the Weill Graduate School of Cornell University and conducted her postdoctoral work at Rockefeller University. She has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that generate endogenous circadian rhythms and the genetic mechanisms and functions of sleep.

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