How does the brain switch inbetween wakefulness and sleep?

How does the brain switch between wakefulness and sleep?

Typical sleep patterns in mammals are composed of two phases: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep or dreaming sleep. Researchers from Bern wished to understand the mechanisms that help the brain switch inbetween the two patterns. They identified a fresh neural circuit inbetween hypothalamus and thalamus that have been associated with electroencephalogram rhythms during sleep. Making use of optogenetics, the researchers managed the neurons from the hypothalamus with millisecond-timescale light pulses. The neurons’ brief activation during light sleep induced rapid awakenings, while their chronic activation maintained prolonged wakefulness. On the other arm, when the circuit was muffled, deep sleep was induced. They found that the hyperactivity of the circuit was possibly the cause of insomnia. Moreover, the circuit’s arousal power is strong enough to recover an organism from anesthetic state. This examine, therefore, can prove significant in treating patients who are in a vegetative state.

Read more in Science Daily. 

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