Trainee Profile

David S Uygun, PhD

David Uygun 201707
Research Fellow in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
Research Fellow in Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, VA Boston Healthcare System

See publications


1400 VFW Parkway
West Roxbury, MA 02132

Inter-office Mail Address

VABHS Building 3, 2B-112


Society Memberships

Society for Neuroscience
Sleep Research Society

Research Unit(s)

Laboratory of Neuroscience

Research Interests

Sleep is vital, and sleeping well is important for living well. However, our environment does not encourage optimal sleep. Hypnotic drugs can provide sleep when it is wanted. But the sleep that drugs provide never perfectly resembles natural sleep. And, we don’t fully understand how well a drug induced sleep-like-state can provide the restorative aspects of natural sleep.

I am interested in investigating how facets of sleep (especially EEG hallmarks of sleep) are impacted by drug activity upon specific sleep-wake regulating brain circuitry.

Sleep-spindles are transient, waxing and waning, 10 – 15 Hz oscillations of an EEG signal. delta-oscillations are EEG signals of 1 – 4 Hz. Both are characteristic of non-REM sleep, and both are considered as recuperative features of sleep.

Hypnotic drugs alter both sleep-spindles and delta-oscillations; arguably both, in beneficial ways and in harmful ways. Sleep-spindles and delta-oscillations arise from neuronal signaling between the neocortex and the thalamus. The thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN), which encases the rest of the thalamus, plays a pivotal role in these oscillations. The TRN receives inputs from the basal forebrain (BF) which is also critically involved in activating the neocortex directly.

Building on previous pioneering work, I am using recent genetic technologies including optogenetics & CRISPR to study the sleeping brain with greater temporal and spatial specificity than was possible in the past. With these approaches, it is possible to target subpopulations of neurons within known brain areas (i.e. BF & TRN) with more precision, to dissect their niche roles in the control of natural and drug-induced sleep.


Selected Publications

Bottom-Up versus Top-Down Induction of Sleep by Zolpidem Acting on Histaminergic and Neocortex Neurons
David S. Uygun, Zhiwen Ye, Anna Y. Zecharia, Edward C. Harding, Xiao Yu, Raquel Yustos, Alexei L. Vyssotski, Stephen G. Brickley, Nicholas P. Franks, William Wisden
J Neurosci. 2016 Nov 2; 36(44): 11171–11184.  doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3714-15.2016
PMCID: PMC5148237

Wakefulness Is Governed by GABA and Histamine Cotransmission
Xiao Yu, Zhiwen Ye, Catriona M. Houston, Anna Y. Zecharia, Ying Ma, Zhe Zhang, David S. Uygun, Susan Parker, Alexei L. Vyssotski, Raquel Yustos, Nicholas P. Franks, Stephen G. Brickley, William Wisden
Neuron. 2015 Jul 1; 87(1): 164–178.  doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.06.003
PMCID: PMC4509551

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