No Need For Sedatives Anymore – Sleep Node In Brain Is Identified

By on September 19, 2014

According to the researchers of a new study, a circuit which promotes sleep is located deep in the primitive brainstem reveals information about how enter into deep sleep. The findings of this study may helps into developing new sleep disorders therapies, which even includes insomnia.

Sleep Node - No Need For Sedatives AnymoreThis study was conducted by Harvard School of Medicine and the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Patrick Fuller is the senior author of this study and is also assistant professor at Harvard School of Medicine.

Caroline E. Bass is the co-author of this study. She is also assistant professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The sleep node identified is the second one identified in the mammalian brain till now. It appears that this sleep node is both necessary and sufficient to produce sleep deep.

According to this study it is from parafacial zone (PZ) fully half of the sleep promoting activities in brain is originated.

Actually brainstem is a primordial part in brain, which is required for regulation of basis function that are crucial for our survival, which includes breathing, heart rate, blood pressure levels, and temperature of our body.

Caroline E. Bass said that the close association of sleep center with other regions, which are important for our survival, highlights the evolutionary importance of sleep with respect to brain.

Researchers of this have found out that a particular type of neuron present in the parafacial zone produces GABA (neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is responsible for deep sleep. Set of innovative tools were used by them to precisely and remotely controlling the neuron. This gave them the ability of turn on and off of this neuron.

Christelle Ancelet is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard School of Medicine. Christelle Ancelet said that these new molecular approaches gave them an unprecedented control over the functioning of brain at the cellular level.

Christelle Ancelet also added that earlier they often used the ‘electrical stimulation’ for a particular region in the brain. But, there was a problem in using this method, which is that every part was stimulated, wherever the electrode touched, and sometimes even the area around it touches.

Patrick Fuller explained that they introduced a virus into the parafacial zone for getting the precision required for these experiments. This virus just expressed as designer receptor on GABA neuron in brain, but didn’t otherwise alter the functioning of the brain.

Patrick Fuller also said that the animals fell into sleep quickly without any use of sedatives or any other sleep aids by turning on the GABA neurons in the parafacial zone.

Researchers said that there is need to study the interaction of these neurons in brain with other regions of brain that promote sleep and wake. But, eventually, these findings of their study will help in developing new sleep disorder treatments, which even includes insomnia, and also in developing better and safer anesthetics.

Bass said that this is truly a transformative point in neuroscience, where we can have unprecedented control over the functioning of brain with the used of designer genes.

She also said that the questions of fundamental functioning of brain can be answered now, which were beyond the reach till now, including ‘why’ of sleep, which has been one of the enduring mysteries in the neurosciences.

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