Hit of dopamine sends mice to dreamland!

Recent studies show that sleep can be induced in mice, by controlling the dopamine producing nerve cells in mice brain.

Sleep types and disorders

Sleep disorders are very common, and typically refer to lack of restful sleep.

Understanding the different stages of sleep, and the factors controlling the transitions between those stages, might be useful for treating sleep disorders. The two broad categories of sleep stages are rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM). The brain is active and we dream in the REM stage.

Dopamine effects sleep

Dopamine is a chemical produced by neurons, is responsible for pleasure, movement, learning among other things. Nerve cells in the ventral tegmental area transfer dopamine to amygdalae, which closely controls emotions.

Molecular studies are often done on mice, as conducting experiments on humans is difficult. Scientists in this study were able to control the dopamine producing neurons in mice, to move mice from non-REM to REM sleep. Laser and other genetic engineering techniques were used for controlling the dopamine prodcuing neurons, and sensors were used to spot the exact area in the brain that releases dopamine.

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