Brain Molecular Activity Linked to Sleep
September 21, 2010
Washington State University researchers have discovered the mechanism by which the brain switches from a wakeful to a sleeping state. The finding could clear the way for other discoveries that could improve sleep aids and treatment for strokes and other brain injuries.
The researchers documented how ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the fundamental energy currency of cells, is released by active brain cells to start the molecular events leading to sleep. The ATP then binds to a receptor responsible for cell processing and the release of cytokines, small signaling proteins involved in sleep regulation.
By charting the link between ATP and the sleep regulatory substances, the researchers have found the way in which the brain keeps track of activity and ultimately switches from a wakeful to sleeping state. For example, learning and memory depend on changing the connections between brain cells. The study shows that ATP is the signal behind those changes.
We know that brain activity is linked to sleep, but we've never known how," said James Krueger, WSU neuroscientist and lead author of a paper in the latest Journal of Applied Physiology. "This gives us a mechanism to link brain activity to sleep. This has not been done before."
The mechanism - a cascade of chemical transmitters and proteins—opens the door to a more detailed understanding of the sleep process and possible targets for drugs and therapies aimed at the costly, debilitating and dangerous problems of fatigue and sleeplessness.
Copyright Notice: All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of the National Sleep Foundation. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. Links to Web sites other than those owned by the National Sleep Foundation are offered as a service to readers and the foundation is not responsible for their content. Click here to request permission.
Advertisement Notice: The National Sleep Foundation neither control nor endorse the advertisements, items or Websites featured in the advertisers links on our Web pages.