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Brain Res Bull. 2009 Dec 16;80(6):382-8. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2009.08.015. Epub 2009 Aug 28.

c-Fos protein expression is increased in cholinergic neurons of the rodent basal forebrain during spontaneous and induced wakefulness.

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1
VA Boston Healthcare System and Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, Brockton, MA, USA. james mckenna@hms.harvard.edu

Abstract

It has been proposed that cholinergic neurons of the basal forebrain (BF) may play a role in vigilance state control. Since not all vigilance states have been studied, we evaluated cholinergic neuronal activation levels across spontaneously occurring states of vigilance, as well as during sleep deprivation and recovery sleep following sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation was performed for 2h at the beginning of the light (inactive) period, by means of gentle sensory stimulation. In the rodent BF, we used immunohistochemical detection of the c-Fos protein as a marker for activation, combined with labeling for choline acetyl-transferase (ChAT) as a marker for cholinergic neurons. We found c-Fos activation in BF cholinergic neurons was highest in the group undergoing sleep deprivation (12.9% of cholinergic neurons), while the spontaneous wakefulness group showed a significant increase (9.2%), compared to labeling in the spontaneous sleep group (1.8%) and a sleep deprivation recovery group (0.8%). A subpopulation of cholinergic neurons expressed c-Fos during spontaneous wakefulness, when possible confounds of the sleep deprivation procedure were minimized (e.g., stress and sensory stimulation). Double-labeling in the sleep deprivation treatment group was significantly elevated in select subnuclei of the BF (medial septum/vertical limb of the diagonal band, horizontal limb of the diagonal band, and the magnocellular preoptic nucleus), when compared to spontaneous wakefulness. These findings support and provide additional confirming data of previous reports that cholinergic neurons of BF play a role in vigilance state regulation by promoting wakefulness.

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