Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cells In Eye Could Help Control Sleep

Date:
August 26, 2008
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
A set of nerve cells in the eye control our levels of sleepiness according to the brightness of our surroundings, Oxford University researchers have discovered. The cells directly regulate the activity of sleep centers in the brain, providing a new target for the development of drugs to control sleep and alertness.

A set of nerve cells in the eye control our levels of sleepiness according to the brightness of our surroundings, Oxford University researchers have discovered. The cells directly regulate the activity of sleep centres in the brain, providing a new target for the development of drugs to control sleep and alertness.
Credit: iStockphoto/Maciej Laska

A set of nerve cells in the eye control our levels of sleepiness according to the brightness of our surroundings, Oxford University researchers have discovered. The cells directly regulate the activity of sleep centres in the brain, providing a new target for the development of drugs to control sleep and alertness.

Related Articles


Immune systems, cognitive performance, and mental health are all affected by the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Sleep disruption is known to be associated with a range of problems, including depression, immune impairment and a greater risk of cancer. Many drugs have been developed to modify sleep-wake cycles but these are crude, affecting many chemical pathways and different parts of the brain at the same time, and have side-effects.

'Sleep and the disruption of sleep patterns is a huge problem in the 21st century,' says Professor Russell G. Foster of Oxford’s Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, who led the work. 'Our working culture of long hours and shift work, with the 24/7 availability of almost everything, have conspired to demote sleep in our priorities.'

The presence and absence of light can affect levels of sleepiness and alertness. It’s why dimly lit rooms lead us to feel drowsy, while bright lights stimulate wakefulness. During the Second World War it was shown that brightly lit factories had a more alert and productive workforce than dimly lit factories, but until now little was known about how this happened.

'We have discovered a new pathway that modulates sleep and arousal,' Professor Foster explains. 'If we can mimic the effect of light pharmacologically, we could turn sleep on and off.'

Professor Foster and colleagues have previously shown that the eye contains a subset of retinal nerve cells that are sensitive to light. Working on mouse models in which these retinal ganglion cells have been turned off genetically, the research team found that the effects of light on sleep and alertness were completely abolished. The work was supported by the Wellcome Trust and a European Commission grant.

Mice are nocturnal animals, so show the opposite light response to humans. They are alert and active in the dark, but go to sleep in the light.

The Oxford team videoed mice and monitored their muscle and brain activity for four hours in the dark. The lights were then switched on for an hour and after 15–20 minutes the mice went to sleep. Turning off the light-sensitive retinal ganglion cells abolished this behaviour. The mice stayed awake when the lights were on.

'There was absolutely no effect on the mice. This was a very clear and very surprising result,' comments Professor Foster.

The researchers were able to track this sleep pathway to the brain. They showed that two sleep-inducing centres in the brain are directly activated by the cells, turning on or turning off sleep. By defining the whole light-responsive system that regulates sleep and alertness, the researchers have found a new pathway that could provide a new therapeutic target for manipulation of sleep and arousal in humans.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oxford. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Cells In Eye Could Help Control Sleep." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 August 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080825204822.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2008, August 26). Cells In Eye Could Help Control Sleep. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080825204822.htm
University of Oxford. "Cells In Eye Could Help Control Sleep." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080825204822.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) Advances in prosthetics are making replacement body parts stronger and more lifelike than they’ve ever been. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Daily Serving Of Yogurt Could Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Daily Serving Of Yogurt Could Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) Need another reason to eat yogurt every day? Researchers now say it could reduce a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins