A claustrum in reptiles and its role in slow-wave sleep

Nature. 2020 Feb;578(7795):413-418. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-1993-6. Epub 2020 Feb 12.


The mammalian claustrum, owing to its widespread connectivity with other forebrain structures, has been hypothesized to mediate functions that range from decision-making to consciousness1. Here we report that a homologue of the claustrum, identified by single-cell transcriptomics and viral tracing of connectivity, also exists in a reptile-the Australian bearded dragon Pogona vitticeps. In Pogona, the claustrum underlies the generation of sharp waves during slow-wave sleep. The sharp waves, together with superimposed high-frequency ripples2, propagate to the entire neighbouring pallial dorsal ventricular ridge (DVR). Unilateral or bilateral lesions of the claustrum suppress the production of sharp-wave ripples during slow-wave sleep in a unilateral or bilateral manner, respectively, but do not affect the regular and rapidly alternating sleep rhythm that is characteristic of sleep in this species3. The claustrum is thus not involved in the generation of the sleep rhythm itself. Tract tracing revealed that the reptilian claustrum projects widely to a variety of forebrain areas, including the cortex, and that it receives converging inputs from, among others, areas of the mid- and hindbrain that are known to be involved in wake-sleep control in mammals4-6. Periodically modulating the concentration of serotonin in the claustrum, for example, caused a matching modulation of sharp-wave production there and in the neighbouring DVR. Using transcriptomic approaches, we also identified a claustrum in the turtle Trachemys scripta, a distant reptilian relative of lizards. The claustrum is therefore an ancient structure that was probably already present in the brain of the common vertebrate ancestor of reptiles and mammals. It may have an important role in the control of brain states owing to the ascending input it receives from the mid- and hindbrain, its widespread projections to the forebrain and its role in sharp-wave generation during slow-wave sleep.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Claustrum / anatomy & histology*
  • Claustrum / cytology
  • Claustrum / injuries
  • Claustrum / physiology*
  • Lizards / anatomy & histology*
  • Lizards / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mammals / physiology
  • Mesencephalon / cytology
  • Mesencephalon / physiology
  • Neural Pathways
  • RNA-Seq
  • Rhombencephalon / cytology
  • Rhombencephalon / physiology
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Transcriptome
  • Turtles / anatomy & histology
  • Turtles / physiology


  • Serotonin