Researchers Pinpoint Neurons Behind Sleep Paralysis in Rats

When glutamate neurons are inactivated in rats, the rodents are still capable of REM sleep—but they lose the sleep paralysis unique to REM.

Joshua A. Krisch
Dec 12, 2016

Glutamate neurons emit a spontaneous red fluorescenceCNRS, SARA VALENCIA GARCIAOne of the early indications of Parkinson’s disease is REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), which involves talking, kicking, and eventually falling out of bed during REM sleep—when the patient is supposed to be unable to move. Now, a December 12 study in Brain suggests that a similar condition exists in rats, and that a handful of glutamate neurons in the sublaterodorsal nucleus may be behind the phenomenon.

Researchers from Centre de Recherche en Neurosciences de Lyon and colleagues targeted glutamate neurons that prior studies had suggested were in part responsible for REM sleep. They introduced genetically modified viral vectors that targeted the neurons of the sublaterdorsal nuclei in rats and blocked the expression of a gene that causes glutamate secretion. They found that the rats were still capable of REM sleep, but that they were no longer unable to...

The findings suggest that these neurons may be involved in the RBD parasomnia. The researchers are now developing an animal model of RBD.