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Nitric Oxide Levels In Brain Indicate Sleep

sleep, and the other non-REM sleep). The results were identical when the researchers injected a compound that scavenges nitric oxide – mops it up and renders it inactive.

In contrast, when the basal forebrain was infused with a nitric oxide "donor" – an agent that boosts nitric oxide levels – during a normal sleep-wake cycle, adenosine levels increased and the rats fell into a sleep much like the "recovery" sleep that occurs after prolonged wakefulness. Blocking adenosine receptors with caffeine prevented this nitric-oxide-induced slumber.

Rosenberg sees the most pharmaceutical promise in developing drugs that prolong wakefulness by curbing production of nitric oxide or scavenging the gas once it's produced. The opposite – a sleeping pill made from nitric oxide donors -- would be much harder, he says, since these compounds would likely break down before ever reaching the brain. However, one of the ways nitric oxide promotes sleep is by stimulating production of a signaling molecule called cyclic GMP, and it may be possible to achieve the same effect by using drugs that block cyclic GMP's breakdown, Rosenberg says.

One surprise in the research was that the main message telling the brain to go to sleep probably does not come from neurons, but from neighboring glial cells, which appear to produce the greatest amounts of nitric oxide. Until recently, glial cells have been assumed to play only a supportive role in the brain. Rosenberg speculates that the molecules that turn on nitric oxide production in glial cells (as yet undiscovered) might provide additional targets for drug development.

Source-EurekalertRAS
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