Reward-related brain circuit is vital for sleep, researchers discover

Reward-related brain circuit is vital for sleep, researchers discover

Problems sleeping? You’re not alone; every year, around 40 million Americans experience insomnia, with some cases warranting drug treatment. But new research may pave the way to a more effective treatment option; in a mouse study, researchers found that a brain circuit involved in reward response is also crucial for sleep.

Senior author Luis de Lecea, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and colleagues publish their findings in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The brain’s reward system is made up of several structures – including the prefrontal cortex, the nucleus accumbens, and the ventral segmental area (VTA) – and it plays a role in desire, pleasure, and motivation.

The reward system is primarily activated by a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is produced in response to rewarding stimuli – such as food or sex.

As the research team notes, it is perhaps unsurprising that the reward system is linked to the sleep-wake cycle; for example, when we are excited about the day ahead – an emotion fueled by the reward system – it can be difficult to sleep.

However, de Lecea says that no studies had pinpointed the exact brain region where this overlap occurs – until now.

Lead author Ada Eban-Rothschild, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, notes that amphetamines and other drugs that activate the reward system through dopamine secretion are known to disrupt sleep.

With this in mind, assessing whether dopamine is involved in the sleep-wake cycle seems an obvious area of research.

“But, in part due to existing technical limitations, earlier experimental literature has unearthed little evidence for the connection and, in fact, has suggested that this circuit probably wasn’t so important,” adds Eban-Rothschild… Read More>>

Source: Medical News Today

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