Skip to content


Subimal Datta

Subimal DattaSubimal Datta
Ph.D., All India Institute of Medical sciences (1986)

Phone (865) 974-3639

Key words: Sleep-wake, consciousness, learning and memory, anxiety, depression, stress, brainstem, cholinergic system, phasic pontine-wave (P-wave), intracellular signaling

Research Interests

Cellular and molecular mechanisms of sleep-wake states, sleep-dependent memory processing, states of consciousness, neurodegenerative disorders, anxiety disorders.

Research statement

My research program focuses on following three major areas of the behavioral neuroscience, which are complementary to each other:

  1. Anxiety, depression, and sleep.  In humans, disrupted sleep architecture is a hallmark feature of many psychiatric disorders, including Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD) and depression.  Similarly, normal sleep architecture is critical for psychological and emotional well-being.  Understanding the common pathophysiological mechanisms among PTSD, depression, and sleep architecture disturbances is key to the development of rational behavioral and pharmacological therapies for these persistent and debilitating disorders.  Therefore, we are using rats sleep architecture disturbances to understand the pathophysiological mechanisms of anxiety and depression.
  2. Sleep-dependent memory consolidation: beyond the hippocampus and amygdala.  Sleep confers a beneficial effect on learning and memory.  My research is exploring how the stages of sleep are involved in different stages of memory formation.  One of our key discoveries is that activation of a small group of glutamatergic cells in the brainstem is critical for memory consolidation, one of the major steps of long-term memory formation.  We identified this group of cells as the phasic pontine-wave (P-wave) generator.  We have shown that elimination of these brainstem glutamatergic cells prevents memory consolidation by suppressing expression of specific genes and proteins in the hippocampus and amygdala.  We believe that the continued progress of this work will be important in the development of behavioral and pharmacological therapies for the debilitating cognitive dysfunction in sleep related neurological and psychiatric disorders (including PTSD and addiction).
  3. Sleep, Dreaming, and Anesthesia.  This research is focused on identifying specific brain areas, cell types, neurotransmitter receptors, intracellular signaling systems, and genes that are critical for the regulation of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and dreaming.  Based on experimental evidence, we developed the "Cellular-Molecular-Network" model of REM sleep regulation.  This model not only explains the neurobiological mechanisms of REM sleep, but also identifies possible mechanisms of consciousness and dreaming.  The ultimate goal of our research is to understand the basic mechanisms of consciousness and sleep regulation and thereby find causes and cures for sleep disorders.


  • 2017 - Chair, Session on "How the reticular activating system (RAS) modulates perception and movement" (Prague, Czech Republic, Joint congress of World Association of Sleep Medicine and World Sleep Federation)
  • 2016- 2017 Member of Review Committee, Fulbright Scholar Specialist
  • 2016 - 2022 Member of Biobehavioral Regulation, Learning and Ethology (BRLE) study section, National Institute of Health.
  • 2016 - Reviewer for Research Grant Application, The Netherlands Organization for Health Research Development, Netherland
  • 2015 - Kamla B. K. Anand Oration award
  • 2015-2018 Member of Scientific Committee, North American Sleep Research Society
  • 2015 - External Reviewer, Full Professor Promotion Committee, University of Missouri – School of Medicine, Missouri, USA
  • 2015 - External Reviewer, Associate Professor Promotion Committee, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA   
  • 2014 - Reviewer, NIMH BRAINS research grants (ZMH1 ERB-L-05)
  • 2014-19 Roster member -- Fulbright Scholar Specialist
  • 2014 – Present -- Editorial Board Member, MR International Journal of Applied Health Sciences
  • 2011 - Chair, Symposium, "Sleep and Memory" Worldsleep 2011, World Federation of Sleep Research Society, Kyoto, Japan.
  • 2010 - External Expert, Promotion and Appointment of Full Professor, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
  • 2010 - Invited Lecture, 11th International Child Neurology Congress, Cairo, Egypt.
  • 2009 - 2017 Associate Editor, SLEEP (Journal of APSS)
  • 2007 - Associate Editor, Frontiers in Neuroscience
  • 2005 - Invited Lecture, Annual Meeting of Japanese Society of Sleep Research, Utsunomiya, Japan
  • 2004 - Young Scientist Award, ASIO, North America
  • 2004 - Invited Lecture, 28th International Congress of Psychology, Beijing, China
  • 2003 - Invited Lecture, Arkansas State Medical Society, University of Arkansas, Little Rock, AR
  • 1997 - Research Grant Review Committee: Air Force (USA); NIH (USA); VA (USA); NSF (USA); BBSRC Bioscience (UK); Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Pissa (Italy); Welcome Trust (UK); Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (Netherland); Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (India)
  • 1995 - Young Investigator Award, North American Sleep Research Society
  • 1995 - William F. Milton Award, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
  • 1986 - B. K. Anand Research Prize, Indian National Award in Physiology, APPI
  • 1985 - C. L. Malhotra Research Prize, Indian National award in Pharmacology, APPI


  • National Institute of Health Grant # RO1 MH-115470-01: Cellular, molecular, and network interactions promoting emotional memory consolidation during sleep (from 09-01-17 to 08-31-22). Total Cost 1,710,000; Principal Investigator: Subimal Datta.
  • National Institute of Health Grant #RO1MH059839: Cellular and molecular mechanisms of REM sleep; Project years 15-21; From 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2019; Total Costs, $2,046,250; Principal Investigator: Subimal Datta.


  • National Institute of Mental Health Grant #RO1MH059839: Cellular and neurochemical mechanisms of REM sleep; Project years 9-14; From 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2013; Total Costs, $1,725,000; Principal Investigator: Subimal Datta
  • Sepracor Inc. (Pharmaceutical company) Research Grant: Neurobiological basis of anxiety and alteration of sleep-wake behavior after stressor exposure; From 1 May 2008 to 31 December 2009; Total Costs, $145,000; Principal Investigator: Subimal Datta
  • EPIX Pharmaceuticals Research Grant: Effects of EPX-104888 (antagonists of neuropeptide S receptor) on sleep-wake activity; From 1 February 2010 to 30 April 2010; Total Costs, $42,284; Principal Investigator: Subimal Datta
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Grant #RO1NS034004: Cellular and neurochemical mechanisms of REM sleep; Project years 10-15; From 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2010; Total Costs, $1,867,345; Principal Investigator: Subimal Datta
  • National Institute of Mental Health Grant #RO1MH059839: Cellular and neurochemical mechanisms of REM sleep; Project years 5-8; From 1 April 2003 to 30 June 2008; Total Costs, $1,518,875; Principal Investigator: Subimal Datta
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Grant #RO1NS034004: Cellular and neurochemical mechanisms of REM sleep; Project years 5-9; From 1 April 2001 to 30 June 2005; Total Costs $1,770,580; Principal Investigator: Subimal Datta
  • National Institute of Mental Health Grant #RO1MH059839: Cellular and neurochemical mechanisms of REM sleep; Project years 1-4; From 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2003; Total Costs, $866,157; Principal Investigator: Subimal Datta
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Grant #R29NS034004 (NIH First Award): Cellular basis of brainstem PGO wave generation; Project years 1-5; From 1 December 1995 to 30 June 2005; Total Costs $484,385; Principal Investigator: Subimal Datta
  • Research Grant for Harvard Medical School Junior Faculty; From 1 July 1995 to 31 July 1996; Total Costs: $45,000; Principal Investigator: Subimal Datta

Selected Publication

  • Garner JM, Chambers J, Barnes AK, Datta S. Changes in brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression influences sleep-wake activity and homeostatic regulation of rapid eye movement sleep. SLEEP, Volume 41, Issue 2, 1 February 2018, zsx194,
  • Oliver MD, Datta S, Baldwin DR. A Sympathetic Nervous System evaluation of obesity stigma. PLOS One 12(10):e0185703 (2017).
  • Baldwin DR, Towler K, Oliver MD, Datta S. An Examination of College Student Wellness: A Research and Liberal Arts Perspective. Health Psychol. Open (2017).
  • Datta S, Oliver MD. Cellular and molecular mechanisms of REM sleep homeostatic drive: A critical component for behavioral plasticity. Frontiers in Neural Circuits 11:63 (2017). Doi:10.3389/fncir.20017.00063.
  • Totty MS, Chesney LA, Geist PA, Datta S. Sleep-Dependent oscillatory synchronization: A role in fear memory consolidation. Frontiers in Neural Circuits 11:49 (2017). Doi:10.3389/fncir.2017.00049.
  • Geist PA, Dulka BN, Barnes A, Totty M, Datta S. BNDF heterozygosity is associated with memory deficits and alterations in cortical and hippocampal EEG power. Behav. Brain Res. 332:154-163 (2017).
  • Oliver MD, Datta S, Baldwin DR. Race as an Influential factor of Wellness among African-American and Caucasian students attending a Predominately White Institution. J. Health Psychology 1-9 (2017). (
  • Barnes A, Smith SB, Datta S. Beyond emotional and spatial processes: Cognitive dysfunction in a depressive phenotype produced by long photoperiod exposure. PLoS ONE 12:e0170032 (2017). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0170032.
  • Barnes A, Koul-Tewari R, Datta S. Activation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB) signaling in the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPT): A novel mechanism for the homeostatic regulation of REM sleep. J Neurochem. 141:111-123 (2017).
  • Baldwin DR, Datta S, Bassett DR, Overstreet BS, Schweighart P. Feel better but exercise less: an examination of exercise enjoyment, personality and physical activity in young adults. Acta Psychopathologica 2:29 p1-8 (2016).
  • Datta S. Mysteries of pedunculopontine nucleus physiology: Towards a deeper understanding of arousal and neuropsychiatric disorders. Sleep Science 8:53-55 (2015).
  • Datta S, Knapp CM, Koul-Tiwari R, Barnes A. The homeostatic regulation of REM sleep: A role for localized expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the brainstem. Behav. Brain Res. 292:381-392 (2015).
  • Knapp CM, Ciraulo DA, Datta S. Mechanisms underlying sleep-wake disturbances in alcoholism: focus on the cholinergic pedunculopontine tegmentum. Behav. Brain Res. 274:291-301 (2014).
  • Knapp CM, O'Malley MW, Ciraulo DA, Datta S. The Kv7 Potassium Channel Activator Retigabine Decreases Alcohol Consumption in Rats. Am. J. Drug and Alcohol Abuse 40:244-250 (2014).
  • Siwek DF, Knapp CM, Kaur G, Datta S. Dorsal subcoeruleus nucleus (SubCD) involvement in context-associated fear memory consolidation. Exp. Brain Res. 232:1535-1545 (2014).
  • Datta, S. Phasic ponto-geniculo-occipital/pontine wave. In: Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreams: The Evolution, Function, Nature, and Mysteries of Slumber (D. Barrett and P. McNamara, eds.), Greenwood Publishers (ABC-CLIO), Santa Barbara, Vol. 2, 487-490 pg (2012).
  • Datta, S. Phasic pontine-wave generation: Cellular-molecular-network mechanism and functional significance. In: Brain Activity in Sleep (M. G. Frank, ed.), Elsevier Inc., Chapter 7, pp147-165 (2012).
  • Datta S, O'Malley MW. Fear extinction memory consolidation requires potentiation of pontine-wave activity during REM sleep. J. Neurosci. 33:4561-4569 (2013).
  • O'Malley MW, Fishman RL, Ciraulo DA, Datta S. Effect of five-consecutive-day exposure to an anxiogenic stressor on sleep-wake activity in rats. Front. Neurol. 4:Article 15 P1-P10 (2013).
  • O'Malley MW, Datta S. REM sleep regulating mechanisms in the cholinergic cell compartment of the brainstem. Ind. J. Sleep Med. 8:63-71 (2013).
  • Datta S. The preconscious mind and gamma band activity in the reticular activating system. Frontiers in Sleep and Chronobiol.  Front. Neur. 3:16 (2012).
  • Desarnaud F, Macone BW, Datta S. Activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling in the pedunculopontine tegmental (PPT) cells is involved in the maintenance of sleep in rats. J. Neurochem. 116:577-587 (2011).
  • Macone BW, O'Malley M, Datta S. Sharing stressful experiences attenuates anxiety-related cognitive and sleep impairments. Behav. Brain Res. 222:351-356 (2011).
  • Datta S, O'Malley MW, Patterson EH. Calcium/calmodulin Kinase II in the Pedunculo- pontine Tegmental Nucleus Controls the Initiation and Maintenance of Wakefulness. J. Neurosci. 31:17007-17016 (2011).
  • Datta, S. Pontine-wave generator: A key player in REM sleep-dependent memory consolidation. In: Rapid Eye Movement Sleep: Regulation and Function (B. N. Mallick, S. R. Pandi-Perumal, R. W. McCarley and A. R. Morrison, eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 140-150 pg (2011).
  • Stack EC, Desarnaud F, Siwek DF, Datta S. A novel role for calcium/calmodulin kinase II within the brainstem pedunculopontine tegmentum for the regulation of wakefulness and rapid eye movement sleep. J. Neurochem. 112:271-281 (2010).
  • Huang MP, Radadia K, Auerbach SH, Datta S. Effects of Eszopiclone and Zolpidem on sleep-wake behavior, anxiety and contextual memory in rats. Behav. Brain Res.210:54-66 (2010).
  • Datta S, Desarnaud F. Protein kinase A in the PPT nucleus of rat contributes to regulation of rapid eye movement sleep. J. Neuroscience. 30:12263-12273 (2010).
  • Datta S. Cellular and chemical neuroscience of mammalian sleep. Sleep Medicine 11:431-440 (2010).
  • Datta S. Molecular mechanisms underlying sleep deprivation-induced deficits in hippocampal long-term potentiation and contextual memory. Cell Sci. Rev. 6 (3):1-6 (2010).
  • Thakkar M. M., Datta S. The evolution of REM sleep. In: Evolution of sleep: Phylogenetic and functional perspectives(P. McNamara, R. A. Barton and C. L. Nunn, eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 197-217 pg (2010).
  • Datta, S. Sleep: Learning and memory. In: Encyclopedia of Behavioral Neuroscience (G. F. Koob, M. Le Moal and R. F. Thompson, eds.), Elsevier Inc., Oxford: Academic Press. Volume 3, pp. 218-226 (2010).
  • Datta S, Siwek DF, Huang MP. Improvement of Two-way Active Avoidance Memory Requires Protein Kinase A Activation and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Expression in the Dorsal Hippocampus. J. Mol. Neurosci.38:257-264 (2009).
  • Datta S. Regulation of neuronal activities within REM sleep-sign generators. Sleep 32:1113-1114 (2009).
  • Datta S, Siwek DF, Stack E. Identification of cholinergic and noncholinergic neurons in the pons expressing phosphorylated cAMP response element-binding proptein (pCREB) as a function of rapid eye movement sleep. Neurosci.163:397-414 (2009).
  • Datta, S. Cholinergic brainstem. Encyclopedia of Neuroscience (Binder M.D., Hirokawa, N., Windhorst, U. (Eds.). Springer Verlag GmbH, Heidelberg, Volume I: 705-708 (2009).
  • Datta S, Macone BW. REM sleep. Frontiers in Neurosci. 3:404-405 (2009).
  • Datta S, Li G, Auerbach S. Activation of phasic pontine-wave generator in the rat: a mechanism for expression of plasticity-related genes and proteins in the dorsal hippocampus and amygdala. Eur. J. Neurosci. 27:1876-1892 (2008).
  • Shea JL, Mochizuki T, Sagvaag V, Aspevic T, Bjorkum AA, Datta S. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep homeostatic regulatory processes in the rat: changes in the sleep-wake stages and electroencephalographic power spectra. Brain Res.1213:48-56 (2008).
  • Knapp CM, Datta S, Ciraulo DA, Kornetsky C. Effects of low dose cocaine on REM sleep in the freely moving rat. Sleep and Biol. Rhythm 5:55-62 (2007).
  • Ennis M, Datta S. Electrotonic coupling in the nucleus subcoeruleus. Focus on evidence for electrical coupling in the subcoeruleus (SubC) nucleus. J. Neurophysiol. 97:2579 (2007).
  • Datta S. Activation of pedunculopontine tegmental PKA prevents GABA-B receptor activation-mediated rapid eye movement sleep suppression in the freely moving rat. J. Neurophysiol. 97:3841-3850 (2007).
  • Datta S, MacLean RR. Neurobiological mechanisms for the regulation of mammalian sleep-wake behavior: reinterpretation of historical evidence and inclusion of contemporary cellular and molecular evidence. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 31:775-824 (2007).
  • MacLean RR, Datta S. The relationship between anxiety and sleep-wake behavior after stressor exposure in the rat. Brain Res. 1164:72-80 (2007).
  • Datta S. Activation of phasic pontine-wave generator: A mechanism for sleep-dependent memory processing. Sleep and Biol. Rhythms 4:16-26 (2006).
  • Bandyopadhya RS, Datta S, Saha S. Activation of pedunculopontine tegmental protein kinase-A: A mechanisms for rapid eye movement sleep generation in the freely moving rat. J. Neurosci. 26:8931-8942 (2006).
  • Datta S, Saha S, Prutzman SL, Mullins OJ, Mavanji V. Pontine-wave generator activation-dependent memory processing of avoidance learning involves the dorsal hippocampus in the rat. J. Neurosci. Res. 80:727-737 (2005).
  • Saha S, Datta S. Two-way active avoidance training-specific increases in phosphorylated cAMP response element-binding protein in the dorsal hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus. Europ. J. Neurosci. 21:3403-3414 (2005).
  • Datta S, Prutzman SL. A novel role of brainstem PPT adenylyl cyclase in the regulation of spontaneous REM sleep in the freely moving rat. J. Neurophysiol. 94:1928-1937 (2005).
  • Ulloor J, Datta S. Spatio-temporal activation of CREB, Arc, and BDNF: A mechanism for pontine-wave generator activation-dependent two-way active avoidance memory processing in the rat. J. Neurochem. 95:418-428 (2005).
  • Datta S, Mavanji V, Ulloor J, Patterson EH. Activation of phasic pontine-wave generator prevents REM sleep deprivation-induced learning impairment in the rat: a mechanism for sleep-dependent plasticity. J. Neurosci. 24:1416-1427 (2004).
  • Ulloor J, Mavanji V, Saha S, Siwek DF, Datta S. Spontaneous REM sleep is modulated by the activation of the pedunculopontine tegmental GABA-B receptors in the freely moving rat. J. Neurophysiol. 91:1822-1831 (2004).
  • Xu C, Datta S, Wu M, Alreja M. Hippocampal theta rhythm is reduced by suppression of the H-current in septohippocampal GABAergic neurons. Europ. J. Neurosci. 19:2299-2309 (2004).
  • Mavanji V, Ulloor J, Saha S, Datta S. Neurotoxic lesions of phasic pontine-wave generator cells impair retention of 2-way active avoidance memory. Sleep 27:1282-1292 (2004).
  • Mavanji V, Siwek DF, Spoley EE, Patterson EH, Datta S. Effects of passive-avoidance training on sleep-wake state specific activity in the basolateral and central nuclei of amygdala. Behav. Neurosci.117:751-759 (2003).
  • Datta, S., Patterson, E.H. Activation of phasic pontine wave (P-wave): A mechanism of learning and memory processing, in Sleep and Brain Plasticity (J. Maquet, R. Stickgold, and C. Smith, eds.), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 135-156 pg (2003).
  • Mavanji V, Datta S. Activation of phasic pontine-wave generator enhances improvement of learning performance: a mechanism for sleep-dependent plasticity. Europ. J. Neurosci. 17:359-370 (2003).
  • Datta S, Mavanji V, Patterson EH, Ulloor J. Regulation of rapid eye movement sleep in the freely moving rat: Local microinjection of serotonin, norepinephrine, and adenosine into the brain stem. Sleep 26:513-520 (2003).
  • Datta S. Evidence that REM sleep is controlled by the activation of brainstem pedunculo-pontine tegmental kainate receptors. J. Neurophysiol. 87:1790-1798 (2002).
  • Datta S, Spoley EE, Mavanji VK, Patterson EH. A novel action of pedunculo-pontine kainate receptors: A mechanism of REM sleep generation in the rat. Neuroscience, 114:157-164 (2002).
  • Mavanji VK, Datta S. Clomipramine treatment in neonatal rats alters the brain acetylcholineesterase activity in adulthood. Neurosci. Leltt. 330:119-121 (2002).
  • Mavanji VK, Datta, S. Sleep-wake effects of yohimbine and atropine in the clomipramine-induced depressed rat. NeuroReport 13:1603-1606 (2002).
  • Mavanji VK, Meti B, Datta S. Sleep-wake effects of metachlorophenylpiperazine and mianserin in the clomipramine-induced depressed rat. Eur. J. Pharmacol. 455:35-41 (2002).
  • Datta S, Siwek DF. Single cell activity patterns of pedunculopontine tegmentum neurons across the sleep-wake cycle in the freely moving ratJ. Neurosci. Res. 70:611-621 (2002).
  • Datta S, Spoley EE, Patterson EH. Microinjection of glutamate into the pedunculo pontine tegmentum induces REM sleep and wakefulness in the rat. Am. J. Physiol. Reg. Integr. Comp. Physiol. 280:R752-R759 (2001).
  • Datta S, Patterson EH, Spoley EE. Excitation of the pedunculopontine tegmental NMDA receptors induces wakefulness and cortical activation in the rat. J. Neurosci. Res. 66:109-116 (2001).
  • Datta S, Patterson EH, Vincitore M, Tonkiss J, Morgane PJ, Galler JR. Prenatal protein malnourished rats show changes in sleep-wake behavior as adults. J. Sleep Res. 9:71-79 (2000).
  • Datta S, Hobson JA. The rat as an experimental model for sleep neurophysiology. Behav. Neurosci. 114:1239-1244 (2000).
  • Datta S. Avoidance task training potentiates phasic pontine-wave density in the rat: A mechanism for sleep-dependent plasticityJ. Neurosci. 20:8607-8613 (2000).

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.