Sleep-Active Neurons: Conserved Motors of Sleep

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleContributedpeer-review



Sleep is crucial for survival and well-being. This behavioral and physiological state has been studied in all major genetically accessible model animals, including rodents, fish, flies, and worms. Genetic and optogenetic studies have identified several neurons that control sleep, making it now possible to compare circuit mechanisms across species. The "motor" of sleep across animal species is formed by neurons that depolarize at the onset of sleep to actively induce this state by directly inhibiting wakefulness. These sleep-inducing neurons are themselves controlled by inhibitory or activating upstream pathways, which act as the "drivers" of the sleep motor: arousal inhibits "sleep-active" neurons whereas various sleep-promoting "tiredness" pathways converge onto sleep-active neurons to depolarize them. This review provides the first overview of sleep-active neurons across the major model animals. The occurrence of sleep-active neurons and their regulation by upstream pathways in both vertebrate and invertebrate species suggests that these neurons are general and ancient components that evolved early in the history of nervous systems.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1279-1289
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

External IDs

PubMedCentral PMC5887131
Scopus 85045001459
ORCID /0000-0002-7689-8617/work/142236976



  • Animals, Biological Evolution, Humans, Mammals, Models, Animal, Neurons/physiology, Sleep/physiology