Research Projects

Can boosting sleep help to tackle tau?

Awarded to:
Dr Michele Bellesi

Current award:

University of Camerino

1 December 2021 - 2 May 2023

Full project name:

Enhancing sleep to delay the progression of tauopathy






Multiple brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia, involve a protein called tau. Tau builds up in brain cells and spreads through the brain leading to damage and ultimately devastating symptoms like memory loss.

Dr Michelle Bellesi from the University of Camerino is working to understand whether they can slow the build-up of tau protein by enhancing sleep. Researchers have found evidence that that a lack of sleep leads to accumulation and spreading of tau protein in the brain. This implies that good quality sleep may help to prevent the development or progression of diseases that involve tau.

Research suggests that rocking motions and certain tones can help people to sleep longer and more deeply. Similar results have been found in research with animals.

Dr Bellesi will apply these sleep enhancement techniques to mice with features of Alzheimer’s disease. He will then study the extent of tau build up in these mice and look for any behaviour changes.

This project aims to explore the possibility of delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by promoting deep sleep. The findings will help explore the use of sleep enhancement, to treat or reduce the risk of diseases that cause dementia and whether approaches like smart rocking beds or wearable audio-headbands could be promising approaches for future research in people.

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