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Alzheimer Prevention with Yassa Lab Sleep Research 

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The UCI Translational Neuroscience Laboratory, or Yassa Lab, run by Dr. Michael Yassa, director of the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, is currently conducting research to examine “biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) through sleep.”

In an interview with Destiny Berisha, a Ph.D student working at the Yassa Lab, Berisha explained how their research specifically focuses on Alzheimer’s pathology in relation to sleep. 

Berisha and her fellow researchers are collecting more evidence that suggests abnormal changes in sleep patterns may be associated with AD. The Yassa Lab explores how doctors could potentially predict who might develop AD or even age into dementia.

“[Essentially], we’re looking for biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease through sleep,” Berisha said.

Berisha described that the Yassa Lab utilizes a technique called electroencephalography (EEG). EEG is a non-invasive procedure that detects abnormalities in brain waves by placing electrodes on subjects’ scalps. Collecting cognitive sleep data allows researchers to analyze the brain during the sleep cycle.

In the Yassa Lab, researchers use EEG to “read cortical signals of [patients’] brainwaves … characterizing what stage of sleep [patients] are in based on their heart rate, breathing and eye movements,” said Berisha.

The benefits of sleep research revolve around developing technology and scientific measures for early detection in illnesses such as AD. Berisha referenced a statistic to explain why the work of sleep researchers like herself is even more pertinent today as dementia cases increase. 

AD and other dementia disorders “will double … by 2060 when 13.9 million Americans are projected to have the disease,” Berisha said.

The findings of the Yassa Lab are not only relevant to patients with Alzheimers, but to everyone, including students. 

According to Berisha, practicing healthy sleep hygiene is paramount to “functioning at your best capacity,” regardless of age. Berisha said inter-individual variability is an important factor in the amount of sleep people should strive for. Everyone is a little different, so what may work for one person may not work for another. 


“If you feel refreshed by the morning, that’s probably the recommended amount of hours you should sleep,” Berisha said.

Berisha recognizes the difficulty in maintaining a decent sleep schedule, “especially throughout the pandemic,” but urges people all to try their best to take care of themselves.

Natalie Ringdhal is a STEM Intern for the spring 2022 quarter. She can be reached at nringdah@uci.edu.