Janet Best is Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the Ohio State University and Long-term Visitor at the Mathematical Biosciences Institute. She received an A.B. in Mathematics from Princeton and a Ph.D. in Mathematics in 2004 from Cornell. She is the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and is a Sloan Foundation Research Fellow. Her research is in dynamical systems, probability theory and stochastic processes on random graphs, and in applications of mathematics to neurobiology and the functioning of brain systems. She is particularly interested in changes in neural function accompanying changes in the health or shape of neurons and in their connections - such as occur normally in development or pathologically in disease progression. She also studies the relationship between the metabolism of neurons and the electrophysiology of neuronal networks in dopamine and serotonin neurons in an effort to understand, for instance, the dynamics of Parkinson's disease and the actions of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
Professor Best will lecture on the dynamics of sleep-wake cycles. To sleep "like a baby" means to sleep peacefully and soundly. Yet parents often observe that their infant's sleep has frequent interruptions and perhaps a shorter sleep-wake cycle; statistical analysis confirms that infant sleep and adult sleep have different dynamical structures. Perhaps it is the prevalence of chronic sleep disorders that has adults looking back wistfully at sleeping babies. Compounding the difficulty of managing a sleep disorder is the news that disruptions in normal sleep-wake activity have been associated with many long-term health consequences. Professor Best will discuss what is known about the biological basis of sleep including controversies in the field. She then will show how mathematical models, both deterministic and stochastic, help us to understand sleep-wake rhythms from newborns to adults while also yielding insights into some sleep disorders.