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Sleep. 2017 Apr 1;40(4). doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsx032.

New Neuroscience Tools That Are Identifying the Sleep-Wake Circuit.

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Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Administration Medical Center, Research Service, Charleston, SC.
Centre for Biological Timing and Cognition, Department Cell and Systems Biology, and Physiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.


The complexity of the brain is yielding to technology. In the area of sleep neurobiology, conventional neuroscience tools such as lesions, cell recordings, c-Fos, and axon-tracing methodologies have been instrumental in identifying the complex and intermingled populations of sleep- and arousal-promoting neurons that orchestrate and generate wakefulness, NREM, and REM sleep. In the last decade, new technologies such as optogenetics, chemogenetics, and the CRISPR-Cas system have begun to transform how biologists understand the finer details associated with sleep-wake regulation. These additions to the neuroscience toolkit are helping to identify how discrete populations of brain cells function to trigger and shape the timing and transition into and out of different sleep-wake states, and how glia partner with neurons to regulate sleep. Here, we detail how some of the newest technologies are being applied to understand the neural circuits underlying sleep and wake.


Cellular and molecular biology; REM sleep; chemogenetics; narcolepsy; optogenetics; sleep.

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