Neuronal activity in the preoptic hypothalamus during sleep deprivation and recovery sleep

J Neurophysiol. 2014 Jan;111(2):287-99. doi: 10.1152/jn.00504.2013. Epub 2013 Oct 30.


The preoptic hypothalamus is implicated in sleep regulation. Neurons in the median preoptic nucleus (MnPO) and the ventrolateral preoptic area (VLPO) have been identified as potential sleep regulatory elements. However, the extent to which MnPO and VLPO neurons are activated in response to changing homeostatic sleep regulatory demands is unresolved. To address this question, we continuously recorded the extracellular activity of neurons in the rat MnPO, VLPO and dorsal lateral preoptic area (LPO) during baseline sleep and waking, during 2 h of sleep deprivation (SD) and during 2 h of recovery sleep (RS). Sleep-active neurons in the MnPO (n = 11) and VLPO (n = 13) were activated in response to SD, such that waking discharge rates increased by 95.8 ± 29.5% and 59.4 ± 17.3%, respectively, above waking baseline values. During RS, non-rapid eye movement (REM) sleep discharge rates of MnPO neurons initially increased to 65.6 ± 15.2% above baseline values, then declined to baseline levels in association with decreases in EEG delta power. Increase in non-REM sleep discharge rates in VLPO neurons during RS averaged 40.5 ± 7.6% above baseline. REM-active neurons (n = 16) in the LPO also exhibited increased waking discharge during SD and an increase in non-REM discharge during RS. Infusion of A2A adenosine receptor antagonist into the VLPO attenuated SD-induced increases in neuronal discharge. Populations of LPO wake/REM-active and state-indifferent neurons and dorsal LPO sleep-active neurons were unresponsive to SD. These findings support the hypothesis that sleep-active neurons in the MnPO and VLPO, and REM-active neurons in the LPO, are components of neuronal circuits that mediate homeostatic responses to sustained wakefulness.

Keywords: REM sleep; adenosine; median preoptic nucleus; sleep homeostasis; ventrolateral preoptic area.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials*
  • Animals
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Preoptic Area / cytology
  • Preoptic Area / physiology*
  • Preoptic Area / physiopathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Stages