Sleeping, Breathing and Addiction: Research from Experimental Biology 2019

EB 2019 Crowd Shot

Credit: American Physiological Society

Scientists who study physiology and other biomedical research fields—including anatomy, biochemistry, pathology and pharmacology—gather every year at the Experimental Biology (EB) meeting to network, collaborate and communicate new research findings. This year’s EB meeting in Orlando, Fla., featured studies ranging from the gut microbiome to heart disease to adolescent health. Read on to learn more about sleep’s effect on teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), coping mechanisms for PTSD and the link between performance-enhancing drugs and cocaine.

Fershtman poster

Chaya Fershtman presents her poster, “Sleep restriction worsens daily life executive functioning in adolescents with ADHD” at Experimental Biology 2019.       Credit: Erica Roth

An estimated 11 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17 have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—a difference in brain anatomy and wiring that can create challenges in areas of executive function. Executive function is a collection of skills that contribute to being able to focus, pay attention and manage time. New research from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center finds that skimping on rest can lead to cognitive problems for teens with ADHD. The study showed that executive function suffered when adolescents with ADHD slept for only six and a half hours a night.

Vemulapalli poster 2

Monica Vemulapalli presents her poster, “Sympathetic and cardiovascular response to device-guided slow breathing acutely depends on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) severity” at Experimental Biology 2019.    Credit: Erica Roth

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that may develop after a person has experienced a traumatic or life-threatening event, including military combat, natural disasters and physical or sexual abuse. Severe anxiety associated with PTSD can cause rapid breathing and increased muscle tension and may lead to spikes in heart rate and blood pressure, which increases the risks of hypertension and heart disease. Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta found that a device that uses musical tones to guide the user to breathe more slowly helped reduce sympathetic nerve activity in people with severe PTSD. This could also help reduce the risk of high blood pressure among those with PTSD in the long run.

When young adult athletes take a type of performance-enhancing drug called anabolic steroids, they are much more likely to use cocaine than people who don’t use steroids. Researchers from the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus studied this theory for the first time in teens. They found that using anabolic steroids changes the brain circuitry that regulates addictive behavior, making it more likely for minors to use—and become addicted to—cocaine. The researchers also found that steroid use caused changes to the ovaries, which could cause conception problems down the road.

Interested in learning about more research presented at the meeting? Read more:

Connections between Food, Drink and the Brain: Research from Experimental Biology 2019

Surprising Ways to Protect Your Heart: Research from Experimental Biology 2019

Erica Roth



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