March 5, 2002
Highlighting: Anne Venner Ph.D.
Neurons that are activated by the chemical messenger serotonin have a complex relationship to sleep-wake behaviors. That much is clear from past research, although the way the abundant neurotransmitter affects these behaviors seems to vary in different parts of the brain.
Getting a more specific handle on how serotonin-containing neurons affect sleep and wakefulness in different brain areas is important. In part, this is because a more precise understanding might help researchers develop new treatments to modulate not only sleep and arousal, but also disorders such as anxiety and depression, whose symptoms often include sleep disturbances.
Investigators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School have published results of new research in mice that suggests that by acutely activating serotonin neurons located in a part of the brain called the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), it may be possible to generate an anti-anxiety effect that has the benefit of promoting sleep.
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