Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Zebra Fish May Teach Us Something About Sleep

David Prober, Ph.D., of the California Institute of Technology is using the zebra fish to find out why humans and animals sleep. He announced some of his results at a Brain and Behavior Research Foundation symposium held recently in New York City. For example, a deficiency in the neurotransmitter hypocretin has been strongly implicated in narcolepsy. So Prober and his colleagues switched off the gene that makes hypocretin in zebra fish and found that they slept about only half as much as normal. Thus hypocretin may be involved in normal sleep as well as in narcolepsy. Prober and his colleagues are also using the zebra fish as they search for new drugs to treat insomnia. They currently have some candidates.

"Unfortunately sleep research has been underrecognized and underfunded," Dennis Charney, M.D., dean of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, commented after Prober's talk. "The zebra fish is potentially a good model."

Researchers are also studying sleep behaviors as they relate to parasomnias and the significance of insomnia in mood-disorder patients. Read research on those topics in Psychiatric News here and here. Much more about sleep disorders can be found in American Psychiatric Publishing's Clinical Manual for Evaluation and Treatment of Sleep Disorders.

(Image: Vilmos Varga/Shutterstock.com)


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