A study by scientists with the Veterans Affairs Neurobiology Research Laboratory and UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute shows that brain cells containing the chemical histamine are critical for waking.
Detailed in the May 27 edition of the journal Neuron, the findings show that the cessation of activity in histamine cells causes loss of consciousness during sleep, while cessation of activity in other brain cells--those containing the brain chemicals norepinephrine or serotonin--causes loss of muscle tone in sleep. The findings also help explain why antihistamines, often taken to control allergies, cause drowsiness.
"Our findings greatly improve our understanding of the brain activity responsible for maintaining consciousness and muscle tone while awake," said Dr. Jerome Siegel, senior author on the study. "The findings should aid in the development of drugs to induce sleep and to increase alertness." Siegel is chief of neurobiology research at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Sepulveda, and a professor at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute.
Dan Page | EurekAlert!
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