Identifying the Neurobiology Behind Sleep Issues in PWS

Identifying the Neurobiology Behind Sleep Issues in PWS.jpgSleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness severely impact the quality of life for many with PWS, as well as their parents and caregivers. Within the Global PWS Registry, about 50% of respondents report that their loved one suffers from excessive daytime sleepiness.

Dr. Thomas Scammell's group at Harvard Medical School is working to help identify the underlying neurobiology behind sleep issues in PWS. They're exploring how reduced function of neurons in the hypothalamus region of the brain may significantly contribute to daytime sleepiness in a project titled "Wake promoting effects of oxytocin."

Using animal models of PWS and an advanced technique called photoactivation, researchers are able to specifically target and activate certain subsets of neurons and then measure how that targeted activation impacts sleep and wakefulness in mice. The results from this project will advance our understanding of how hypothalamic dysfunction impairs sleep cycles in PWS and provide potential targets for intervention.

Dr. Scammell and his post-doctoral fellow Carrie Mahoney presented their work in 2016 at both International Prader-Willi Syndrome Organisation concerence in Toronto and the FPWR Family Conference in Rhode Island. His presentation at the FPWR conference, "Sleep in PWS: Clinical and Scientific Perspectives," was captured in this video and summary

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Topics: Research

Jessica Bohonowych


Jessica Bohonowych is a graduate of Duke University, and holds a PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of California, Davis. Incorporating her research background, knowledge of pharmacology and drug development, and teaching experience, Jessica works with Theresa Strong in managing FPWR’s grant portfolio, communicating research results and breakthroughs to our community, aiding in special projects such as the Clinical Trials Initiative and Molecular Resource Center, and is heading the development of the Global PWS Registry.