Neuroscientists Uncover Brain Region ‘Crucial’ to Deep Sleep

Neuroscientists Uncover Brain Region 'Crucial' to Deep Sleep

Neuroscientists have discovered a surprising new source of deep-sleep brain waves, shaking up our understanding of the architecture of sleep and how we treat sleep disorders.

Our sleep is divided into four main stages, which are determined by the activity of our brain waves. The first stage, N1, is when we first start to fall asleep. At this point, our bodies and brain activities start to slow down. In stage two, our muscles begin to fully relax and our heart rate, breathing, and brain activity continue to slow down. Then, we have deep sleep, which is thought to be the most important stage for body recovery and growth.

Deep sleep is characterized by long, slow brain waves together with short bursts of activity called sleep spindles. Historically, these have been thought to originate from a single brain circuit linking a structure in the middle of the brain, called the thalamus, to the outer cortex. However, a new study from the University of California , Irvine, published in the journal Scientific Reports , suggests that there may be another brain region at play here too. Our sleep is divided into four stages, characterized by different levels of brain activity. “Our research sheds light on a previously unrecognized aspect of deep sleep brain activity,” lead author Mengke Wang, former UC Irvine undergraduate student in biomedical engineering who is now a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, said in a statement.

“We’ve discovered that the hippocampus, typically associated with memory formation, plays a crucial role in generating slow waves and sleep spindles, offering new insights into how these brain waves support memory processing during sleep.”


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By clicking on SIGN ME UP, you agree to Newsweek’s Terms of Use & Privacy Policy . You may unsubscribe at any time. The role of the hippocampus here adds to previous understanding of the role of deep sleep in memory consolidation, which is thought to continue throughout the final stage of the sleep cycle: REM sleep.

Not only do these results expand understanding of healthy sleep cycles, but they may also offer useful insight into what can go wrong during sleep disorders.

“These findings have significant implications for sleep research, potentially paving the way for new approaches to treating sleep-related disorders,” co-author Gregory Brewer, adjunct professor of biomedical engineering at UC Irvine, said in a statement.

In future studies, the team hopes to explore the therapeutic potential of targeting this hippocampal activity to improve both sleep quality and cognitive function.

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