Ever since humans mastered the arts of thinking and reasoning they wondered about the nature and meaning of sleep and dreaming. Yet, the serious study of sleep started less than a century ago with the discovery of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep
by Aserinsky and Kleitman (Aserinsky and Kleitman, 1953), the detailed work demonstrating the universality of sleep architecture (Dement and Kleitman, 1957) and the detailed animal work and deep thinking of the French school lead by Michel Jouvet, for a review see (Jouvet, 2000).
Sleep has remained at the forefront of neurophysiology for a couple of decades but interest slowed down as the realization of how difficult is the task to understand what goes on as we deliver our mind to Morpheus. In the last three decades, the new wave of neuroimaging techniques showed some glimpses of the functioning of the human brain at sleep. During the last decade of the millennium, the first studies of sleep relied on the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and functional Magnetic resonance Imaging (fMRI) (Maquet, 2000). These neuroimaging modalities are slow and indirect because they rely on measurements of correlates of metabolisms; therefore they could only indicated areas of the brain that increased the overall demand for energy over long enough periods. Yet these methods were enough to produce the first clear evidence for specific changes in metabolism for some of the key stages of sleep.
A really new page was turned for the study of sleep with the first all-night recording of sleep with magnetoencephalography (MEG), performed at the Laboratory for Human Brain Dynamics (LHBD-J) in the Brain Science Institute at RIKEN near Tokyo in 2000 and the analysis of the resulting data with magnetic Field Tomography (MEG) a few years later(Ioannides et al., 2004). To the best of our knowledge, the sleep MEG experiments performed at LHBD-J, back in the period 2000 to 2002 remain till today, the only all-night MEG experiments performed in humans.
As it will be described in the talk these experiments continue to produce today exciting new insights about sleep through work at the new laboratory for Human Brain Dynamics (LHBD-Cy) established in Cyprus in 2009, partly to continue some of the research started at LHBD-J. The presentation will include a description of the fundamental work on MEG localization in the UK and the first experiments with whole head MEG helmet in Germany that motivated the decision to move to Japan and invest on the sleep experiments as the first major effort of the new LHBD-J MEG laboratory, in line with the spirit of a 20-year long ambitious research agenda in Japan. The experience in centers of excellence set up by the governments of Germany and Japan is very much along the lines followed by the Cyprus government today with strong support of Europe.
The main part of the talk will briefly describe early results at LHBD-J, for reviews see (Ioannides, 2006, 2007) before focusing on sleep (Ioannides et al., 2009) and specifically the recent results from further analysis of the original MEG sleep data performed at LHBD-C (Ioannides, 2018; Ioannides et al., 2017, 2019). The initial emphasis will be placed on highlighting their intrinsic theoretical importance. The talk will continue with a discussion of the promise of follow up work that now goes on with five new research projects funded by both national and international grants and end outlining the opportunities for exceptional new research that will involve international collaborations and will require joining forces of prominent players within Cyprus, so that the resources that are now isolated and spread are used with common purpose.
The goals for such an effort include fundamental advances in understanding sleep, translation of results already obtained to novel and very useful products and services and a concerted effort to use our better understanding of sleep to address major clinical and societal problems including psychiatric disorders and problems of old age.
Prof. Andreas A. Ioannides was born in Morphou, Cyprus. He studied Physics (1970-73) and completed his PhD, both at Surrey University UK (1973-76), continuing with research in nuclear Physics until 1988. Since 1986 he started research in cybernetics and biology that by 1989 narrowed its focus onto magnetoencephalography (MEG). The initial emphasis on basic theory and mathematical analysis techniques lead also to development of experimental protocols and dedicated hardware (freely donated to the community with some nowadays installed in MEG systems world-wide). Prof. Ioannides established and headed theoretical teams and set up functional neuroimaging laboratories in international centers of excellence in the UK (Open University; 1989 -98), Germany (Institute of Medicine, Research Center Juelich; 1994-8) and Japan (Brain Science Institute, RIKEN; 1998 – 2009). He published over 140 scientific papers, was invited as keynote speaker to numerous international conferences and acted as reviewer to almost every high impact journal publishing neuroimaging papers. Fifteen PhD students and researchers who started their post-doc careers with Prof Ioannides are now leading scientist, some heading international centers of excellence in Europe, North America and Asia.
Prof. Ioannides returned to Cyprus in 2009 as the CEO of AAI Scientific Cultural Services Ltd (AAISCS) and Chief Scientist of AAISCS’s Laboratory for Human Brain Dynamics (LHBD-C). AAISCS is a private company that continues the basic neuroscience research of previous years with the additional goal of using the resulting knowledge to develop new services and products with cheaper and widely accessible technology, including electroencephalography (EEG). The company also provides support for experiments and data analysis in EEG and MEG. For much of the last decade Prof. Ioannides research emphasized three main areas of basic and applied research: the understanding of sleep processes and how these influence health, using the results of basic research to advance new non-invasive, non-pharmacological methods of intervention with strong emphasis on neurofeedback and the development of methods for identifying strengths and weaknesses of pupils in pre-school or in the first year of elementary school and making theses suitable for mass screening.