Publication Date

Summer 2016

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Noah Ashley (Direcotr), Cheryl Davis, and Bruce A. Schulte

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Sleep loss is known to trigger an inflammatory response and increase serum corticosterone in both human and murine models. However, very little evidence is available on the potential effects of sleep loss in avian models. This study aims to construct a profile using cytokine gene expression data to determine how birds respond to sleep loss in a controlled environment. I investigated changes in pro-inflammatory (IL-1β and IL-6) and anti-inflammatory (IL-10) cytokine gene expression in the periphery (fat, liver, spleen, and heart) and brain (hypothalamus, hippocampus, and apical hyperpallium) in zebra finches exposed to a novel sleep fragmentation method. Serum corticosterone, body mass, and behavioral profiles also were assessed. Sleep was interrupted periodically for over 12 hours using a sleep fragmentation chamber, which was modified from those typically used in murine studies. This chamber contained a sweeping wire bar that moved the distance of the cage at 2-minute intervals. I predicted that sleep fragmented birds would exhibit elevated pro-inflammatory and reduced anti-inflammatory gene expression relative to those birds that were not sleep fragmented. In addition, I predicted a decrease in body mass and an increase in serum corticosterone levels because of sleep fragmentation. Contrary to my predictions, sleep fragmentation resulted in lower levels of IL-1β in the apical hyperpallium, but lower levels of IL- 10 in the hippocampus. No differences were detected in the adipose tissue of individuals exposed to sleep loss. Sleep fragmentation resulted in an increase in percent body mass lost. Serum corticosterone levels did not differ across groups. These data provide preliminary insight into the inflammatory response that is seen as a result of sleep loss in an avian model. Overall, it appears that as compared to some mammals such as murine rodents, birds are not as susceptible to sleep loss.


Biology | Endocrinology | Ornithology