The neuroscience of sleep is the study of the neuroscientific and physiological basis of the nature of sleep and its functions. Traditionally, sleep has been studied as part of psychology and medicine. Why we sleep is still an unanswered question among researchers.
The cerebral cortex is a sheet of neural tissue that is outermost to the cerebrum of the brain. It forms 80% of the brain’s volume. It plays a key role in attention, perception, awareness, thought, memory, language, and consciousness.
The study monitored brain activity in laboratory mice, which have fundamental brain similarities to humans in terms of anatomy and sleep mechanisms. Neurons in two areas of the cortex - neocortical layer 5 and a part of the hippocampus - were 'silenced' in the mice's brains. When the neurons in these areas of the brain were deactivated, the lab mice suddenly stayed awake for at least three hours longer every day. To put this into perspective, an average mouse lives for approximately two years, which means they gained three full months of 'awake' time over their lifespans. This equals 10 years in human terms.
Our finding that the cortex is part of the sleep-regulating system opens new perspectives for sleep medicine. It might be possible to use already-established non-invasive brain stimulation techniques to alter cortical activity and thereby moderate sleep for therapeutic purposes, such as for the treatment of sleep disorders."
Dr. Lukas Krone, Department of Physiology