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"Researchers Reveal New Clues to Deep Sleep"

October 9, 2014

HMS DSM researchers led by Patrick Fuller and Christelle Anaclet found that a small region within the brainstem, which they dubbed the parafacial zone, is strongly linked to deep sleep in mammals. Through testing they discovered that neurons in the parafacial zone can be activated to induce deep sleep in animals any time of day without sedating drugs. They also found that disrupting the parafacial zone neurons increased wakefulness profoundly.

Their new findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, provide a model for researchers to use in testing sleep or its absence, and may help doctors create better therapeutic approaches to sleep regulation in patients with sleep or neurological disorders. The findings may also be useful for developing safer anesthetics. "More fundamentally, this model will enable us to approach the ‘why’ of sleep, which is still widely considered one of the most enduring mysteries in the neurosciences,” said Fuller in the press release by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Fuller and Anaclet coauthored the study in September's Nature Neuroscience with Loris Ferrari, Elda Arrigoni, Clifford B. Saper, Jun Lu, and Caroline E. Bass.

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