THE LI LABORATORY
Department of Biology
Center for Biological Clocks Research
Texas A&M University
Welcome to the Li laboratory (est. 2022) at Texas A&M University. We are in the Department of Biology and are also affiliated with the Center for Biological Clocks Research. We study the etiology of sleep loss associated with social isolation and chronic stress.
Sleep is critical for animal survival, general health, and mental well-being. However, sleep is a big mystery. It is particularly intriguing that sleep has lasting and intertwined relationships with our living environment, cognitive world, as well as internal emotional states.
The impact of emotional states on sleep remains the primary etiological factor of sleep disruption. Genetic model organisms have been instrumental in discovering circadian mechanisms regulating normal sleep and factors underlying sleep disorders. However, since investigating emotion in animals is challenging, it is difficult to use animal models to explore how sleep is affected by emotions such as excitement, stress, anxiety, and loneliness. To link sleep and emotion studies, we exploited chronic social isolation in a pioneer genetic model organism, Drosophila melanogaster, to study the etiology of sleep loss under emotional states. Our research program aims to understand the perception of social isolation and other emotional states, and the regulation of sleep/wakefulness and other health-critical behaviors, at the intersection of genetics, biological timing, and neurobiology.