Numerous lesion, stimulation and recording studies in experimental animals demonstrate the importance of neurons within the preoptic/anterior hypothalamic area (POA) in the regulation of sleep induction and sleep maintenance. Recently, a discrete cluster of cells in the ventrolateral POA (vlPOA) of rats was found to exhibit elevated c-fos gene expression during sleep, indicating that these neurons are strongly activated during nonREM and/or REM sleep stages. We examined neuronal discharge during wakefulness and sleep throughout the dorsal to ventral extent of the lateral POA in rats, using chronic microwire technique. We found that neurons with elevated discharge rates during sleep, compared to waking, were localized to the vlPOA. As a group, vlPOA neurons displayed elevated discharge rates during both nonREM and REM sleep. Discharge of vlPOA neurons reflected the depth of sleep, i.e., discharge rates increased significantly from light to deep nonREM sleep. During recovery sleep following 12-14 h of sleep deprivation, vlPOA neurons displayed increased sleep-related discharge, compared to baseline sleep. Neurons in the vlPOA displaying increased neuronal discharge during sleep were located in the same area where neurons exhibit increased c-fos gene expression during sleep. Such neurons are likely components of a rostral hypothalamic mechanism that regulates sleep onset and sleep maintenance.
Copyright 1998 Published by Elsevier Science B.V.