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Ilona Kovacs (Péter Pázmány Catholic University, Budapest)

Sleep, the Achilles’ Heel of brain development

Among the chief causes of developmental disabilities are genetic conditions, prenatal or perinatal injuries, diseases, poverty and cultural deprivation. Research has been mainly focused on addressing each of these factors separately, characterizing how they might determine different types of maladaptive behaviors. We suggest that sleep, the Achilles’ Heel of brain development, might shape the individual’s ability to improve basic procedural (perceptual and motor) skills in order to compensate for the above mentioned handicaps. This hypothesis is supported by our developmental and clinical studies carried out on people living with Williams Syndrome (WS). Relying on the polysomnographic and behavioral database obtained so far, we are now in the phase of planning sleep interventions in order to boost basic learning capabilities of WS subjects. Our hope is that this initiative will not only assist people living with Williams Syndrome, but that sleep interventions will have a general impact.