University of Tokyo and RIKEN researchers have identified seven genes responsible for causing mice to stay awake or fall asleep based on a theoretical model of sleep and on experiments using 21 different genetically-modified mice, some of which showed different sleep durations. Researchers hope that their research will contribute to the understanding and treatment of sleep disorders and associated neurodegenerative diseases.
The research group used genetically engineered mice that expressed a green fluorescent protein when neural activity increases to monitor brain activity. (Left) Low-level neural activity during sleep without inhibition of NMDA receptors, a type of ion-channel protein found on the membrane of neurons. (Right) One important discovery was that in contrast to conventional theory, inhibiting NMDA receptors directly evokes neural activity and brings about waking.
Credit: Copyright: Ueda lab.