May 14, 2013 —
All mammals sleep, as do birds and some insects. However, how this basic function is regulated by the brain remains unclear. According to a new study by researchers from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, a brain region called the lateral habenula plays a central role in the regulation of REM sleep. In an article published today in the Journal of Neuroscience, the team shows that the lateral habenula maintains and regulates REM sleep in rats through regulation of the serotonin system.
“Our results indicate that the lateral habenula is essential for maintaining theta rhythms in the hippocampus, which characterize REM sleep in the rat, and that this is done via serotonergic modulation,” concludes Dr Aizawa. “This study reveals a novel role of the lateral habenula, linking serotonin and REM sleep, which suggests that an hyperactive habenula in patients with depression may cause altered REM sleep,” add the authors.