Selective activation of serotoninergic dorsal raphe neurons facilitates sleep through anxiolysis

Sleep. 2020 Feb 13;43(2):zsz231. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsz231.


A role for the brain's serotoninergic (5HT) system in the regulation of sleep and wakefulness has been long suggested. Yet, previous studies employing pharmacological, lesion and genetically driven approaches have produced inconsistent findings, leaving 5HT's role in sleep-wake regulation incompletely understood. Here we sought to define the specific contribution of 5HT neurons within the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN5HT) to sleep and arousal control. To do this, we employed a chemogenetic strategy to selectively and acutely activate DRN5HT neurons and monitored sleep-wake using electroencephalogram recordings. We additionally assessed indices of anxiety using the open field and elevated plus maze behavioral tests and employed telemetric-based recordings to test effects of acute DRN5HT activation on body temperature and locomotor activity. Our findings indicate that the DRN5HT cell population may not modulate sleep-wake per se, but rather that its activation has apparent anxiolytic properties, suggesting the more nuanced view that DRN5HT neurons are sleep permissive under circumstances that produce anxiety or stress.

Keywords: AAV; EEG/EMG; anxiety; chemogenetics; dorsal raphe; mice; serotonin; stress; thermoregulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arousal
  • Dorsal Raphe Nucleus*
  • Serotonergic Neurons
  • Sleep*
  • Wakefulness