The female sex hormone estrogen reduces sleep disruption in zebrafish genetically designed to help understand autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In collaboration with Ellen Hoffman at Yale University and the Rihel and Wilson lab groups we investigated the function of genes linked to autism and seizures in humans by using zebrafish as a model system. We unexpectedly discovered that estrogens calm hyperactive fish during the night. This discovery will hopefully lead to better understanding of the brain pathways affected in ASD.
The finding is intriguing given ASD is four times more common in men than women. All humans produce estrogen, but levels are significantly higher in women than men.
This study was published in Neuron and our design featured on the cover.