Sleep Protection

Inducing certain brain patterns extends non-REM sleep in mice.

Kerry Grens
Mar 1, 2013

EDITOR'S CHOICE IN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY

HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON: Researchers stimulate deeper sleep by optogenetically triggering certain patterns of brain activity in mice.© VALERIE LOISELEUX/ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

The paper
A. Kim et al., “Optogenetically induced sleep spindle rhythms alter sleep architectures in mice,” PNAS, 109:20673-78, 2012.

The finding
Sleep spindles are EEG-detected oscillations in brain activity, lasting from 0.5 to 3 seconds, that occur during non-REM sleep. Earlier work had proposed that neurons generating sleep-spindle patterns might help maintain sleep, as studies tied increased sleep-spindle frequency to hypersomnia, or extended periods of sleep. But these were only correlations. Now, Hee-Sup Shin of the University of Science and Technology in Daejeon, Korea, and colleagues have shown for the first time that sleep spindles in fact are responsible for maintaining longer periods of non-REM sleep.
 
The technique
Shin’s group used optogenetics—a technique that activates selected neurons via a genetically inserted light...