Amita Sehgal

University of Pennsylvania

Primary Section: 24, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Secondary Section: 22, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2016)


Amita Sehgal is a neuroscientist known for her work on circadian rhythms and sleep. She delineated molecular mechanisms of the circadian clock, identified pathways that connect clocks to behavior and physiology and developed a Drosophila model for the study of sleep. Sehgal was born in Delhi, India, and lived in several different places while growing up, returning to Delhi to get a Bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry and a Master’s in life sciences. She received her PhD from the Weill Graduate School of Cornell University and conducted her postdoctoral work at Rockefeller University. Sehgal is a member of both, the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Research Interests

The Sehgal laboratory is interested in the genetic and cellular underpinnings of sleep:wake behavior. They study the circadian timing of sleep:wake, and related physiological processes, and also seek to address how and why the need for sleep is generated. Using a Drosophila model, the laboratory has identified circadian clock genes, elucidated mechanisms by which these genes function together to generate an endogenous clock and by which they synchronize the clock to light, and discovered pathways that transmit signals from the clock and produce overt behavioral rhythms. They have also addressed the role of clocks in peripheral (non-brain) tissues in Drosophila as well as mammals. To understand the mechanisms that determine sleep need, and thereby sleep amount and quality, Sehgal and her collaborators established Drosophila as a model system to study the homeostatic regulation of sleep. They have identified genes and neural circuits that control sleep amount, linked sleep loss to behavioral and metabolic changes and pinpointed a function for sleep in early life.

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