Overriding the brain when we want to sleep

What keeps us awake when we want to sleep? Much about sleep remains a mystery to scientists, but one team has identified a brain region that appears to be involved with wakefulness.

Overriding the brain when we want to sleepResearchers at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, examined a region of the brain called the dorsal raphe nucleus. They hoped it would give them answers about how people are able to overcome tiredness, such as when under a deadline or dealing with a crying baby at night, according to a June 9 article on MedicalNewsDaily.com.

Scientists used mice to test what would happen when neurons in that brain region were turned on and off with pulses of light. When the team turned on the neurons while the mice were asleep (a time when the neurons were the least active), the mice woke up and stayed awake, the article notes.

The study was published in the journal Neuron. Researchers hope the findings will lead to treatments for insomnia or depression-related sleep disturbances.

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