David T. Plante

David Plante
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry


M.D., University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Residency, Adult Psychiatry, Massachusetts General and McLean Hospitals, Harvard Medical School

Fellowship, Sleep Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Lab Website:


Research Focus:

Disorders of hypersomnolence; neurophysiology during wake and sleep

Research Strength:

Neurophysiological underpinnings of sleepiness; Neurobiology of Disease

Research Description:

The experience of sleepiness is universal, but to describe this phenomenon in scientific terms is remarkably complex.  Although somnolence is part of our daily lives, we surprisingly know very little about its neurobiology.  Thus, the goal of our research is to identify and characterize the neurophysiological underpinnings of sleepiness.  To this end, we utilize multiple model systems in humans to identify biomarkers of somnolence in healthy and disordered populations.  Excessive sleepiness occurring in depressive disorders is the principal model currently used in our laboratory to study the neurobiology of somnolence.  A significant challenge for research on hypersomnolence in mood disorders is the lack of objective measures that can be used for diagnostic purposes and measuring treatment outcomes.  We are thus currently studying depressive persons with hypersomnolence using high-density electroencephalography (hdEEG) while awake to assess for evidence of local sleep (as evidenced by EEG slowing) that may be missed by standard vigilance measures.  We are also examining local cortical changes that occur during a continuous tracking task, to test the hypothesis that depressed persons with hypersomnolence are more prone to experiencing local neuronal off periods induced by extended time on task.  Finally, we are utilizing hdEEG during sleep to evaluate for local changes in slow waves and sleep spindles that may contribute to impairments in the restorative aspects of sleep in mood-disordered patients with hypersomnolence. 

Additional human models used in our laboratory to characterize the neural substrates of sleepiness include sleep deprivation/restriction and sedative hypnotic medications.  Using a large hdEEG dataset, our laboratory is currently investigating changes in slow waves that occur during chronic sleep restriction, as well as alterations in sleep spindles induced by temazepam.  Finally, our laboratory takes great pride in multi-level collaborative efforts employed to study vigilance.

In partnership with investigators at Harvard, we have probed brain metabolic changes that occur in sleep disorders and deprivation using magnetic resonance spectroscopy.  In addition, we have ongoing collaborations with investigators in the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, examining subjective and objective measures of sleepiness in depression in a large epidemiologic sample.


See complete List of Published Work in MyBibliography.