Monday, March 14, 2022

Addicted to dreaming.

Dopamine (DA) is usually associated with pleasure and addiction. Now Hasegawa et al. show that release of DA in the basolateral amygdala (BLA), a brain structure associated with emotional processing, can trigger rapid eye movement (REM) dreaming sleep in mice.
The sleep cycle is characterized by alternating non–rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleeps. The mechanisms by which this cycle is generated are incompletely understood. We found that a transient increase of dopamine (DA) in the basolateral amygdala (BLA) during NREM sleep terminates NREM sleep and initiates REM sleep. DA acts on dopamine receptor D2 (Drd2)–expressing neurons in the BLA to induce the NREM-to-REM transition. This mechanism also plays a role in cataplectic attacks—a pathological intrusion of REM sleep into wakefulness—in narcoleptics. These results show a critical role of DA signaling in the BLA in initiating REM sleep and provide a neuronal basis for sleep cycle generation.

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