Why do some live whereas others die in response to (seemingly) the same insult?
What is the impact of systemic infection on sleep?
Dr. Opp directs a research program funded by the National Institutes of Health to answer these, and other questions related to sleep-immune interactions. The central nervous system (CNS) has an extensive surveillance system to monitor the peripheral immune system. Responses to challenge, irrespective of the nature of the stimulus, almost invariably include changes in behavior. With respect to sleep-immune interactions, an unanswered fundamental question is whether the changes in sleep through the course of an infectious insult contribute to clinical outcome. Before such functional questions can be answered, a more complete understanding of mechanisms mediating sleep-immune interactions is necessary.
To determine mechanisms by which immune challenge alters sleep, Dr. Opp's research utilizes multiple techniques and focuses on actions of neuromodulatory molecules in the brain. Interactions among neuromodulatory molecules, (cytokines such as interleukin-1), and neurotransmitter systems (the serotonergic, GABAergic, cholinergic, and hypocretinergic systems) play a role in the regulation of natural sleep (National Institute of Mental Health), and mediate changes in sleep during sepsis (National Institute of General Medical Sciences; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) and during viral infections (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease).