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Scientists Find Brain Region That Quickly Wakes You From Sleep

Update Date: Dec 28, 2015 09:25 AM EST

What wakes you up quickly? Researchers from the University of Berne examine the part of the brain that helps to switch off sleepy brains. It leads to the invention of new techniques that enable you to overcome sleep disorders, along with the return to consciousness for people who are in "vegetative states".

Insomniacs tend to have disturbed length as well as the depth of sleep, which are crucial for regular cognitive functioning.

"The consequences of sleep perturbations on life quality go far beyond daytime sleepiness and mood alteration. Cognitive impairment, hormonal imbalance and high susceptibility to cardiac or metabolic disorders are amongst some of the negative impacts frequently associated with subtle chronic sleep problems," Antoine Adamantidis, who headed the research, said in a press release.

The lack of proper sleep could lead to diverse neurological disorders, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. Currently, there are no medical therapies or cures for such sleep disorders.

Adamantidis and colleagues found a new circuit in the brain of the mouse which led to rapid wakefulness and inhibition. It was a neural circuit that was situated between the hypothalamus and thalamus. Both these brain regions are linked to EEG (electroencephalogram) rhythms during sleep.

With optogenetics technology, researchers could control hypothalamus neurons with light pulses. It showed that "transient activation during light sleep induced rapid awakenings, whereas chronic activation induced prolonged wakefulness". On the other hand, when this circuit was quietened, it maintained light sleep and increased intensity.

"This is exciting discovery since therapeutical approaches to recover from a vegetative or minimally conscious state are quite limited," Adamantidis said.

The study is responsible for helping neuroscientists to understand the areas of the brain that are responsible for arousal during sleep and vegetative states and also help the medical field to create new therapeutic treatments.

The findings were published in Dec. 21 issue of Nature Neuroscience.

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