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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: September 2011

21 - GABAergic modulation of REM sleep

from Section IV - Neuroanatomy and neurochemistry



Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the adult mammalian brain. GABA receptors are ubiquitous and are highly expressed in many brain areas modulating states of sleep and wakefulness. The consistent finding that drugs that enhance GABAergic transmission also enhance sleep supports the conclusion that endogenous GABA promotes sleep. The effects of GABA on sleep, however, vary as a function of brain region. GABAergic transmission in the pontine reticular formation, the tuberomammillary region of the posterior hypothalamus, and the ventrolateral part of the periaqueductal gray has been shown to promote wakefulness, non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, respectively. The finding that hypothalamic GABA-containing neurons project to the dorsal raphe nucleus, locus coeruleus, and pontine reticular formation encourages future studies aiming to determine the extent to which these GABAergic neurons play a causal role in the generation and maintenance of REM sleep. Functional neuroanatomical studies have identified neural pathways that contribute to REM-sleep generation. Simultaneous, in vivo single-cell recordings of identified GABAergic neurons combined with direct measures of endogenous GABA offer a productive approach for gaining future insights.

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