Iowa Now: Ted Abel found a unique opportunity to further his research on sleep and memory in Iowa City, where he moved in 2018, as founding director of the Iowa Neuroscience Institute.

The real challenge we have is translational research—going from the bench to the bedside. We have done really well from the bedside to the bench. If we have a patient that has an alteration in a particular gene or a problem in an area, we can model it at the bench, but coming back to treatments has been more difficult.

One of the reasons that is an issue with neurological, psychiatric, and neurodevelopmental conditions is that they occur across the lifespan and we don’t have a marker or a sign that signals future conditions or complications. We have made dramatic improvements in our treatment of heart disease, for example. That is not necessarily because we can better measure plaque in arteries; it’s because we know that hypertension 10 years before is a marker of developing heart disease.

In the brain, we don’t have those measures that signal future conditions. However, sleep may be one of those measures to help us identify neurological, psychiatric, and neurodevelopmental conditions in the brain.