Circadian and Homeostatic Modulation of Multi-Unit Activity in Midbrain Dopaminergic Structures

Sci Rep. 2018 May 17;8(1):7765. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-25770-5.


Although the link between sleep disturbances and dopamine (DA)-related neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders is well established, the impact of sleep alterations on neuronal activity of midbrain DA-ergic structures is currently unknown. Here, using wildtype C57Bl mice, we investigated the circadian- and sleep-related modulation of electrical neuronal activity in midbrain ventral-tegmental-area (VTA) and substantia nigra (SN). We found no significant circadian modulation of activity in SN while VTA displayed a low amplitude but significant circadian modulation with increased firing rates during the active phase. Combining neural activity recordings with electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings revealed a strong vigilance state dependent modulation of neuronal activity with increased activity during wakefulness and rapid eye movement sleep relative to non-rapid eye movement sleep in both SN and VTA. Six-hours of sleep deprivation induced a significant depression of neuronal activity in both areas. Surprisingly, these alterations lasted for up to 48 hours and persisted even after the normalization of cortical EEG waves. Our results show that sleep and sleep disturbances significantly affect neuronal activity in midbrain DA structures. We propose that these changes in neuronal activity underlie the well-known relationship between sleep alterations and several disorders involving dysfunction of the DA circuitry such as addiction and depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Dopamine
  • Electroencephalography
  • Homeostasis
  • Mesencephalon / physiology*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL


  • Dopamine