Published on Fri Jul 09 2021

Noradrenergic control of non-REM sleep substates

Osorio-Forero, A., Cardis, R., Vantomme, G., Guillaume-Gentil, A., Katsioudi, G., Fernandez, L. M., Luthi, A.

Wake-promoting neuronal activity is inhibited during non-REM sleep (NREMS) Many mammalian species, including humans, show recurrent moments of sleep fragility during which sensory reactivity is elevated. Wake-related neuronal activity could thus remain active in NREMS.

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Abstract

One promising approach towards understanding what makes sleep vulnerable in disease is to look at how wake-promoting mechanisms affect healthy sleep. Wake-promoting neuronal activity is inhibited during non-REM sleep (NREMS). However, many mammalian species, including humans, show recurrent moments of sleep fragility during which sensory reactivity is elevated. Wake-related neuronal activity could thus remain active in NREMS, but its roles in dynamic variations of sensory reactivity remain unknown. Here, we demonstrate that mouse NREMS is a brain state with recurrent fluctuations of the wake-promoting neurotransmitter noradrenaline on the [~]50-seconds time-scale. These fluctuations occurred around mean noradrenaline levels greater than the ones of quiet wakefulness, while they declined steeply in REMS. They coincided with a clustering of sleep spindle rhythms in the forebrain and with heart rate variations. We addressed the origins of these fluctuations by using closed-loop optogenetic locus coeruleus (LC) activation or inhibition timed to moments of low and high spindle activity during NREMS. We could suppress, lock or entrain sleep spindle clustering or heart rate variations, demonstrating that both fore- and hindbrain-projecting LC neurons show synchronized infraslow activity variations in natural NREMS. Noradrenergic modulation of thalamic but not cortical circuits was required for sleep spindle clustering and involved noradrenaline release into primary sensory and reticular thalamic nuclei that activated both 1- and {beta}-adrenergic receptors to cause slowly decaying membrane depolarizations. Noradrenergic signaling by LC, primarily known for attention promotion in wakefulness, renders mammalian NREMS more wake-like on the close-to-minute-time scale through sustaining thalamocortical and autonomic sensory arousability.