Clifford Saper, MD, PhD
James Jackson Putnam Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience, Harvard Medical School
Professor, Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Head of the Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Hypothalamic Circuitry Controlling Sleep and Circadian Rhythms

The focus of the Saper laboratory is on the circuits in the brain that control basic life functions such as wake-sleep cycles, body temperature, and feeding. These functions are fundamental for life, and they are closely inter-related (e.g., body temperature falls during sleep and increases in response to eating a meal).  Each of these function is driven by both homeostatic mechanisms (e.g., to maintain a stable body temperature and blood sugar levels) as well as by circadian influences (which allow the functions to vary over the course of the day). We identify the neuronal circuitry that is involved in regulating these responses by using new, genetically based methods to   trace the connections of neurons in a specific part of the circuit; record their physiological activity; and to either activate or silence those neurons in awake, behaving animals.  In addition to identifying this circuitry in experimental animals, we also are interested in determining closely related circuitry in human brains, and in determining how it may be disrupted in specific neurological and psychiatric disorders.