Circadian Rhythms & Sleep Biology Faculty

Sara Aton

Associate Professor, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

The consolidation of recent experiences into long-term memories is a fundamental function of the brain and critical for survival. Consolidation is linked to plastic changes at synapses between neurons. However, very little is known about how this plasticity is brought about by ongoing activity in neuronal networks, and how different brain states (e.g. sleep and waking) contribute to the consolidation process.
We study how neuronal and network activity in sleeping and awake brain states contributes to plasticity following novel sensory experiences. By combining behavioral, biochemical, electrophysiological, and optogenetic techniques, we study the effects of waking experiences and sleep on neural circuits in the rodent brain.

Jimo Borjigin

Jimo Borjigin

Associate Professor, Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Associate Professor, Neurology

The Borjigin laboratory is interested in both basic science as well translational research with the ultimate goal of stimulating scientific discovery and improving human health.  Within these efforts, two interrelated projects are appropriate for the SURP undergraduate students : (1) Improving detection of cardiac arrhythmias in patients with sleep apnea (sleep-heart project); and (2) improving detection of cardiac arrhythmias in patients using our newly invented ECM technology (ECM project).  See our lab website for more details. These projects bridge the state of art analytical tools (patent pending) with unmet clinical needs, and are conducted in collaboration with a number of UM physicians in Cardiology, Anesthesiology, Neurology, and Emergency medicine, which allows ample interactions of students with faculty members in both basic science departments as well as clinical departments. 

Ada Eban-Rothschild

Assistant Professor, Psychology

The Eban-Rothschild lab investigates the neuronal underpinnings of sleep-wake states and sleep-preparatory behaviors, in health and disease. We probe the neuronal mechanisms linking motivational processes with sleep-wake regulation, and the neuronal substrates underlying the strong association between sleep-wake disturbances and psychiatric disorders. The lab takes a multidisciplinary approach combining ethologically-relevant behavioral manipulations with innovative techniques to record and manipulate neuronal circuits, including EEG/EMG recordings, in vivo calcium imaging, optogenetics, chemogenetics, and input/output circuit tracing.

Louise O'Brien

Research Associate Professor, Neurology
Research Associate Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology
Associate Research Scientist, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

Dr. O'Brien's primary research interest is in the impact of maternal sleep practices in pregnancy and the association with adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, fetal growth restriction, and stillbirth. She also conducts research examining the role of sleep problems in couples seeking treatment for infertility. Another interest is in the neurobehavioral consequences of sleep-disordered breathing in children and sleep in children with medical problems such as cleft palate repair and craniofacial anomalies.  Dr. O'Brien participates in the training of sleep medicine fellows, maternal-fetal medicine fellows, and acts as a mentor for students, post-docs, fellows, and junior faculty interested in sleep research. 

Scott Pletcher

William H. Howell Collegiate Professor of Physiology
Professor, Molecular & Integrative Physiology

The Pletcher laboratory combines genetic, biochemical and behaviroal techniques to understand the nature of aging-related disease. We also seek to harness technological advancements in computational analysis and robotics to improve the capabilities and efficiency of high-throughput measurements.  We use the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as a model system and focus on highly evolutionarily conserved molecular pathways. Currently, we are studying genes involved in linking neurosensory function, diet and immune function with aging and aging-related disease.

Brendon Watson

Assistant Professor, Psychiatry

We use electrodes and optogenetics to record from and manipulate dozens of neurons simultaneously in the brains of behaving rats and mice. Our goal is to answer questions aimed both at fundamental neurobiological understanding of the cortex and understanding the role of cortex in disease treatment.
We use an approach informed by an understanding of neuronal microcircuit dynamics, macrocircuit connectivity and organism-level behavior to connect between the level of single neurons, networks of those neurons and animal behavior.

Dr. Watson is NOT accepting summer fellows for 2022.


Lei Yin

Associate Professor, Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Associate Professor, Internal Medicine

The Yin laboratory largely focuses on understanding the molecular regulation of circadian rhythms in mammalian system.  The core clock proteins are the driving forces to generate and maintain the 24h circadian rhythms.  Post-translational modifications of those core clock proteins play important function in determining the basic features of a circadian cycle, including period length, amplitude and phase response.  Our lab is currently studying the role of ubiquitination in regulation of circadian oscillation of the core circadian clock proteins.  One of our long-term goals is to identify the unique E3 ligase and de-ubiquitin specific protease (USP) for individual clock protein and determine their circadian functions in vivo.