A mathematical model of sleep-wake cycles: the role of hypocretin/orexin in homeostatic regulation and thalamic synchronization
Sleep is vital to our health and well-being. Yet, we do not have answers to such fundamental questions as “why do we sleep?” and “what are the mechanisms of sleep regulation?”. Better understanding of these issues can open new perspectives not only in basic neurophysiology but also in different path...
Normale und Pathologische Physiologie
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|Summary:||Sleep is vital to our health and well-being. Yet, we do not have answers to such fundamental questions as “why do we sleep?” and “what are the mechanisms of sleep regulation?”. Better understanding of these issues can open new perspectives not only in basic neurophysiology but also in different pathological conditions that are going along with sleep disorders and/or disturbances of sleep, e.g. in mental or neurological diseases.
A generally accepted concept that explains regulation of sleep was proposed in 1982 by Alexander Borb´ely. It postulates that sleep-wake transitions result from the interaction between a circadian and a homeostatic sleep processes. The circadian process is ascribed to a “genetic clock” in the neurons of the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. The mechanisms of the homeostatic process are still unclear.
In this study a novel concept of hypocretin (orexin) - based control of sleep homeostasis is presented. The neuropeptide hypocretin is a synaptic co-transmitter of neurons in the lateral hypothalamus. It was discovered in 1998 independently by two different groups, therefore, obtaining two names, hypocretin and orexin. This neuropeptide is required to maintain wakefulness. Dysfunction in the hypocretin system leads to the sleep disorder narcolepsy, which, among other symptoms, is characterized by severe disturbances of sleep-wake cycles with sudden sleep-attacks in the wake period and interruptions of the sleep phase. On the other hand injection of hypocretin promotes wakefulness and improves the performance of sleep deprived subjects.
The major proposals of the present study are the following: 1) the homeostatic regulation of sleep depends on the dynamics of a neuropeptide hypocretin; 2) ongoing impulse generation of the hypocretin neurons during wakefulness is sustained by reciprocal excitatory connections with other neurons, including local glutamate interneurons; 3) the transition to a silent state (sleep) is going along with an activity-dependent weakening of the hypocretin synaptic efficacy; 4) during the silent state (sleep) synaptic efficacy recovers and firing (wakefulness) can be reinstalled due to the circadian or other input.
This concept is realized in a mathematical model of sleep-wake cycles which is built up on a physiology-based, although simplified Hodgkin-Huxley-type approach. In the proposed model a hypocretin neuron is reciprocally connected with a local interneuron via excitatory glutamate synapses. The hypocretin neuron additionally releases the neuropeptide hypocretin as co-transmitter. Besides of the local glutamate interneurons hypocretin neuron excites two gap junction coupled thalamic neurons. The functionally relevant changes are introduced via activity-dependent alterations of the synaptic efficacy of hypocretin. It is decreasing with each action potential generated by the hypocretin neuron. This effect is superimposed by a slow, continuous recovery process. The decreasing synaptic efficacy during the active wake state introduces an increasing sleep pressure. Ist dissipation during the silent sleep state results from the synaptic recovery.
The model data demonstrate that the proposed mechanisms can account for typical alterations of homeostatic changes in sleep and wake states, including the effects of an alarm clock, napping and sleep deprivation. In combination with a circadian input, the model mimics the experimentally demonstrated transitions between different activity states of hypothalamic and thalamic neurons. In agreement with sleep-wake cycles, the activity of hypothalamic neurons changes from silence to firing, and the activity of thalamic neurons changes from synchronized bursting to unsynchronized single-spike discharges. These simulation results support the proposed concept of state-dependent alterations of hypocretin effects as an important homeostatic process in sleep-wake regulation, although additional mechanisms may be involved.|