Neural signatures of sleep in zebrafish

Nature. 2019 Jul;571(7764):198-204. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1336-7. Epub 2019 Jul 10.


Slow-wave sleep and rapid eye movement (or paradoxical) sleep have been found in mammals, birds and lizards, but it is unclear whether these neuronal signatures are found in non-amniotic vertebrates. Here we develop non-invasive fluorescence-based polysomnography for zebrafish, and show-using unbiased, brain-wide activity recording coupled with assessment of eye movement, muscle dynamics and heart rate-that there are at least two major sleep signatures in zebrafish. These signatures, which we term slow bursting sleep and propagating wave sleep, share commonalities with those of slow-wave sleep and paradoxical or rapid eye movement sleep, respectively. Further, we find that melanin-concentrating hormone signalling (which is involved in mammalian sleep) also regulates propagating wave sleep signatures and the overall amount of sleep in zebrafish, probably via activation of ependymal cells. These observations suggest that common neural signatures of sleep may have emerged in the vertebrate brain over 450 million years ago.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Ependyma / cytology
  • Eye Movements
  • Fluorescence
  • Heart Rate
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacology
  • Hypothalamic Hormones / metabolism
  • Melanins / metabolism
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Pigmentation / physiology
  • Pituitary Hormones / metabolism
  • Polysomnography / methods
  • Sleep / drug effects
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology
  • Sleep, REM / drug effects
  • Sleep, REM / physiology
  • Sleep, Slow-Wave / drug effects
  • Sleep, Slow-Wave / physiology
  • Zebrafish / physiology*


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Hypothalamic Hormones
  • Melanins
  • Pituitary Hormones
  • melanin-concentrating hormone