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Practical matters How to find us prof. dr. P. (Peter) Meerlo

prof. dr. P. (Peter) Meerlo

Associate Professor - The Biology of Sleep

Sleep is important for brain function, performance and health. Although the exact mechanism by which sleep supports the brain is still subject of research and debate, sleep is generally thought to facilitate neuronal recovery, maintenance, and plasticity. Yet, chronically insufficient sleep is a widespread and serious problem in our society. A large number of people experiences sleep loss on a regular basis due to our modern around-the-clock lifestyle, high work pressure, and stress. Repeated sleep loss may have serious repercussions for health and well-being. Particularly, chronically insufficient sleep appears to play an important role in the development of cognitive disorders and psychiatric disorders such as depression.

The research of the Meerlo lab focuses on the importance of sleep and the consequences of sleep loss. The work includes: 1) comparative studies on the regulation and function of sleep in different species of mammals and birds; 2) studies on sleep as a recovery process that supports neuronal plasticity and brain function, including memory formation; and 3) studies on the neurobiological and neuroendocrine consequences of chronically disrupted or restricted sleep, with special emphasis on systems that are involved in stress and have been implicated in mood disorders and cognitive disturbances.


Research interests

Biological clocks and circadian rhythms

The evolution and ecology of sleep

The regulation and function of sleep

The role of sleep in neuronal plasticity and memory processes

The neurobiological consequences of disrupted and restricted sleep

Effects of sleep loss on stress systems and stress sensitivity

Effects of stress on sleep and circadian rhythms

Individual differences and gender differences in stress and sleep

The relationship between sleep disturbance and depression

Psychiatric disorders: causes, mechanisms, and therapies


Selection of publications

Bolsius YG, Heckman PRA, Paraciani C, Wilhelm S, Raven F, Meijer EL, Kas MJH, Ramirez S, Meerlo P, Havekes R. Recovering object-location memories after sleep deprivation-induced amnesia. Current Biology 33: 298-308, 2023.

Kong X, Ota SM, Suchecki D, Lan A, Peereboom AI, Hut RA, Meerlo P. Chronic Social Defeat Stress Shifts Peripheral Circadian Clocks in Male Mice in A Tissue-Specific and Time-of-Day Dependent Fashion. Journal of Biological Rhythms 37: 164-176, 2022.

Ota SM, Kong X, Hut RA, Suchecki S, Meerlo P. The impact of stress and stress hormones on endogenous clocks and circadian rhythms. Frontiers in Neuroendcocrinology 63: 100931, 2021.

Van Hasselt SJ, Hut RA, Allocca G, Vyssotski AL, Piersma T, Rattenborg NC, Meerlo P. Cloud cover amplifies the sleep-suppressing effect of artificial light at night in geese. Environmental Pollution 273: 116444, 2021.

Van Hasselt SJ, Mekenkamp GJ, Komdeur J, Vyssotski AL, Piersma T, Rattenborg NC, Meerlo P. Seasonal variation in sleep homeostasis in migratory geese: a rebound of NREM sleep following sleep deprivation in summer but not in winter. SLEEP 44: zsaa244, 2021.

Van Hasselt S, Rusche M, Vyssotski AL, Verhulst S, Rattenborg NC, Meerlo P. Sleep time in the European starling is strongly affected by night length and moon phase. Current Biology 30: 1664-1671, 2020.

Van Hasselt S, Rusche M, Vyssotski AL, Verhulst S, Rattenborg NC, Meerlo P. The European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) shows signs of NREM sleep homeostasis but has very little REM sleep and no REM sleep homeostasis. Sleep 43: zsz311, 2020.

Heckman PRA, Roig Kuhn F, Meerlo P, Havekes R. A brief period of sleep deprivation negatively impacts the acquisition, consolidation, and retrieval of object-location memories. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 175: 107326, 2020.

Ota SM, Hut R, Riede S, Crosby P, Suchecki D, Meerlo P. Social stress and glucocorticoids alter PERIOD2 rhythmicity in the liver, but not in the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Hormones and Behavior 120: 104683, 2020. 

Raven F, Heckman PRA, Havekes R, Meerlo P. Sleep deprivation-induced impairment of memory consolidation is not mediated by glucocorticoid stress hormones. Journal of Sleep Research 29: e12972, 2020. 

Raven F, Meerlo P, Van der Zee EA, Abel T, Havekes R. A brief period of sleep deprivation causes spine loss in the dentate gyrus of mice. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 160: 83-90, 2019.

Raven F, Van der Zee EA, Meerlo P, Havekes R. The role of sleep in regulating structural plasticity and synaptic strength: implications for memory and cognitive function. Sleep Medicine Reviews 39: 3-11, 2018.

Rattenborg NC, de la Iglesia HO, Kempenaers B, Lesku JA, Meerlo P, Scriba MF. Sleep research goes wild: new methods and approaches to investigate the ecology, evolution and functions of sleep. Philosophical Transactions Royal Society B 372: 20160251, 2017; doi: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0251.

Grønli G, Meerlo P, Pedersen TT, Pallesen S, Skrede S, Marti AR, Wisor JP, Murison R, Henriksen TEG, Rempe MJ, Mrdalj J. A rodent model of night-shift work induces short-term and enduring sleep and electroencephalographic disturbances. Journal of Biological Rhythms 32: 48-62, 2017.

Zhang SL, Bai L, Goel  N, Bailey A, Jang CJ, Bushman FD, Meerlo P, Dinges DF, Sehgal A. Human and rat gut microbiome composition is maintained following sleep restriction. PNAS 114: E1564-E1571, 2017.

Kamphuis J, Baichel S, Lancel M, De Boer SF, Koolhaas JM, Meerlo P. Sleep restriction in rats leads to changes in operant behavior indicative of reduced prefrontal cortex function. Journal of Sleep Research 26: 5-13, 2017.

Havekes R, Park AJ, Tudor JC, Luczak VG, Hansen RT, Ferri SL, Bruinenberg VM, Poplawski SG, Day JP, Aton SJ, RadwaƄska K, Meerlo P­­, Houslay MD, Baillie GS, Abel T. Sleep deprivation causes memory deficits by negatively impacting neuronal connectivity in hippocampal area CA1. eLIFE 5: e13424, 2016.

Meerlo P, Havekes R, Steiger A. Sleep disruption as a causal factor in the development of depression. Current Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience 25: 459-481, 2015.

Sanford LD, Suchecki D, Meerlo P. Sleep, stress and arousal. Current Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience 25: 379-410, 2015.

Mueller A, Meerlo P, McGinty D, Mistlberger R. Sleep and adult neurogenesis: implications for cognition and mood. Current Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience 25: 151-181, 2015.

Havekes R, Meerlo P, Abel T. Animal studies on the role of sleep in memory: from behavioral performance to molecular mechanisms. Current Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience 25: 183-206, 2015.

Kreutzmann JC, Havekes R, Abel T, Meerlo P. Sleep deprivation and hippocampal vulnerability: changes in neuronal plasticity, neurogenesis and cognitive function. Neuroscience 309: 173-190, 2015.

Weljie AM, Meerlo P, Goel N, Sengupta A, Kayser MS, Abel T, Birnbaum MJ, Dinges DF, Sehgal A. Oxalic acid and diacylglycerol 36:3 are cross-species markers of sleep debt. PNAS 112: 2569-2574, 2015.

Havekes R, Bruinenberg VM, Tudor JC, Ferri SL, Baumann A, Meerlo P, Abel T. Transiently increasing cAMP levels selectively in hippocampal excitatory neurons during sleep deprivation prevents memory deficits caused by sleep loss. Journal of Neuroscience 34: 15715-21, 2014.

Coolen A, Plassman K, Barf P, Fuchs E, Meerlo P. Telemetric study of sleep architecture and sleep homeostasis in the day-active tree shrew Tupaia belangeri. Sleep 35: 879-888, 2012.

Kamphuis J, Meerlo P, Koolhaas JM, Lancel M. Poor sleep as a potential causal factor in aggression and violence. Sleep Medicine 13: 327-334, 2012.

Koolhaas JM, Bartolumucci A, Buwalda B, de Boer SF, Flügge G, Korte SM, Meerlo P, Murison R, Olivier B, Palanza P, Richter-Levin G, Sgiofo A,  Steimer T, Stiedl O, Van Dijk G, Wöhr M, Fuchs E. Stress revisited: a critical review of the stress concept. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 35: 1291-1301, 2011.

Hagewoud R, Bultsma L, Koolhaas JM, Meerlo P. Sleep deprivation impairs contextual fear conditioning and attenuates subsequent behavioral, endocrine and neuronal responses. Journal of Sleep Research 20: 259-266, 2011.

Hagewoud R, Havekes R, Tiba P, Novati A, Hogenelst K, Weinreder P, Van der Zee EA, Meerlo P. Coping with sleep deprivation: shifts in regional brain activity and learning strategy. Sleep 33: 1465-1473, 2010.

Hagewoud R, Havekes R, Novati A, Keijser JN, Van der Zee EA, Meerlo P. Sleep deprivation impairs spatial working memory and reduces hippocampal AMPA receptor phosphorylation. Journal of Sleep Research 19: 280-288, 2010.

Lucassen PJ , Meerlo P, Naylor AS, Van Dam AM, Dayer AG, Fuchs E, Oomen CA, Czeh B. Regulation of adult neurogenesis by stress, sleep disruption, exercise and inflammation: implications for depression and antidepressant action. European Neuropsychopharmacology 20: 1-17, 2010.

Meerlo P, Mistlberger R, Jacobs BL, Heller C, McGinty D. New neurons in the adult brain: the role of sleep and consequences of sleep loss. Sleep Medicine Reviews 13: 187-194, 2009.

Novati A, Roman V, Cetin T, Hagewoud R, Den Boer JA, Luiten PGM, Meerlo P. Chronically restricted sleep leads to depression-like changes in neurotransmitter receptor sensitivity and neuroendocrine stress reactivity in rats. Sleep 31: 1579-1585, 2008.

Meerlo P, Sgoifo A, Suchecki D. Restricted and disrupted sleep: effects on autonomic function, neuroendocrine stress systems and stress responsivity. Sleep Medicine Reviews 12: 197-210, 2008.

Last modified:15 February 2023 2.43 p.m.